Assistant coach of the home-based Super Eagles, Imama Amapakabo, says Benin Republic would have the advantage of playing on a natural turf when they face Nigeria on Sunday in a 2018 Championship for African Nations (CHAN) qualifier.
The Nigerian team, which left for Benin on Friday, had been camped in Kano state for the last two weeks—training at the Sani Abacha stadium which has an artificial pitch but would come up against the Squirrels of Benin on natural grass at the Stade de l’Amitié in Cotonou.
“Let us not forget we have the challenge of going to play on grass while we have been training on Astro [turf],” Amakapabo said in an exclusive interview with busybuddiesng.com. “Most of our players here are used to the Astro turf.”
Despite the difficulties the team could face in Benin, Amakapabo, who—last year—led Rangers Football Club of Enugu to win its first Nigerian league title in 32 years, said Nigeria has studied its opponents and is confident of a positive outing in Cotonou this Sunday.
“We’ve been able to gather enough information,” Amapakabo said. He further stressed that the coaches have amassed “as much as we could get knowing fully well that they played two games against Togo and a friendly against Cote d’Ivoire.”
Nigeria is seeking to make its 3rd appearance in the competition. The country failed to qualify for the first two editions before winning bronze in 2014 and getting knocked out in the group stage in 2016. It’s a tournament that has never been kind to the Super Eagles, and the team handlers are well aware that making it to next year’s finals could prove difficult.
“We know the task ahead because for a country we’ve not been able to win this tournament and we feel that the responsibility is on our shoulders,” Amapakabo said. “We are doing everything within our powers to make sure we will be able to qualify and actually go on and lift the trophy.”
On Thursday, head coach, Salisu Yusuf named a 20-man squad for the fixture made up of three goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders and five strikers.
The 2018 CHAN would take place in Kenya From January 11 to February 2.