Making the semifinals of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt would be an “achievement” for the Super Eagles according to former African Footballer of The Year Victor Ikpeba.
Nigeria is making a return to Africa’s continental showpiece after missing out on the last two editions and enjoyed a strong qualifying campaign to book their place in Egypt with a game to spare and have been drawn in Group B alongside Madagascar, Burundi and Guinea.
Notwithstanding Nigeria’s relatively easy draw and impressive qualification campaign, Ikpeba who scored seven goals in thirty-one appearances for Nigeria and was part of the victorious Tunisia ’94 squad that won Nigeria’s second AFCON title believes that the Super Eagles cannot be seen as favourites for the title pointing instead to hosts Egypt and fellow North African powerhouses Morocco.
“We are not favourites in this tournament,” Ikpeba told busybuddiesng.com. “We have countries like Egypt, [the] host country that have hosted it before [and] they’ve won it about three times back home so they are the favourites, Morocco and the other teams.
“But I think we have what it takes to get to the last four and if we get to the last four, I think it is an achievement. It is now for us to rally around the team, the key thing is that we Nigerians should come out and support our players and I am sure the Federation will do a good job to give the players the support, friendly games before the Nations Cup starts.”
While he may not think the Super Eagles are favourites for the trophy, the former Monaco and Borussia Dortmund hitman believes that they should qualify top of their group although he foresees the Guineans providing Nigeria with their stiffest challenge in Group B.
“We will get out from that group, [in] that group stage we are the favourites but we are going to have a tricky tie. Maybe Guinea is going to be a stubborn side to beat; we saw what happened with the U17 (where they knocked Nigeria out of the U17 AFCON in the semifinal).
“[They are a] very physical side [and] in the past we have always found it difficult to beat the Guineans, but I have a lot of belief in this set of players: there’s team unity, the coach is doing a good job so I think if they carry on with the same form they showed during the qualifying series I think we have to get out of that group.
“All match will be difficult but I think we will top that group.”