The 1997 African Footballer of the Year, Victor Ikpeba has described Group B where Nigeria has been paired against Guinea, Madagascar and Burundi for the 2019 AFCON as easy.
However, Super Eagles’ Head Coach, Gernot Rohr has revealed that Nigeria would play the Black Stars of Ghana and the Teranga Lions of Senegal in an international friendly as part of preparations for 2019 AFCON.
According to Rohr, the game against Ghana will hold in Asaba, while the second friendly with Senegal is slated for Egypt.
The opening match of the 2019 AFCON, which will feature the Pharaohs versus the Warriors of Zimbabwe, is scheduled to take place at the 74,100-seat Cairo Stadium on June 21.
The 2019 AFCON draw was held at the magnificent Giza Pyramids and Sphinx last night but before the event, Ikpeba who was an analyst on a cable television picked Burundi, Namibia and Madagascar as the countries he wanted in the Eagles’ group.
Ikpeba whose prediction was almost accurate apart from Namibia whom he got wrong, opined that the Super Eagles were lucky to be handed easy opponents in the group stages.
Nigeria could not make it to the last two editions of the AFCON and incidentally, it was the Syli Nationale of Guinea that stopped the Eagles from qualifying for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations after ending the qualifiers with a 2–2 draw, with goals from Ikechukwu Uche and Victor Obinna.
Nigeria coached by the late Stephen Keshi, came back in the 2013 edition hosted in South Africa; after playing through the tournament with an unbeaten run, defeated Burkina Faso in the finals to lift the Cup for the third time. However, they did not qualify for the next two tournaments.
In Group B are two countries; Burundi and Madagascar that are making their debuts at Africa’s flagship tournament with Burundi coming very close to qualifying for the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations, losing only on penalties to Guinea in a playoff.
On paper, The Swallows of Burundi looks like the weakest team in the group but the fact that they booked a ticket ahead of Gabon that parades Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, one of the deadliest strikers in Europe, says a lot about how they have improved.
On 16 October 2018, Madagascar became the first country to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in their history, after they won 1–0 against Equatorial Guinea.
They qualified from a group that had the Teranga Lions of Senegal with all their superstars including Liverpool’s maverick, Sadio Mane.
The Syli Nationale of Guinea will undoubtedly pose the toughest challenge to the Super Eagles from the way they qualified ahead of the Elephants of Ivory Coast in the qualifiers.
On June 10, 2017, Guinea humiliated Ivory Coast 3-2 in Abidjan and though they were held to a 1-1 draw by the Elephants in the reverse game in Conakry, they still went ahead to qualify as group winners.
Their best finish in the Africa Cup of Nations was second in 1976. The team reached the quarter-finals in four recent tournaments (2004, 2006, 2008, and 2015).
Last night’s draw was historic in its own right, being the first time that twenty-four teams will compete and in a competition taking place mid-year, away from the traditional January – February.
Yaya Touré, the Ivorian champion and four-time winner of the CAF African Player of the Year award, was on stage alongside Ahmed Hassan, record-holder of the number of caps with Egypt (184) and Former African Player of the Year, El Hadji Diouf as well CAF Deputy General Secretary, Anthony Baffoe.
Other CAF legends also in the Egyptian capital are Joseph Antoine Bell and Rigobert Song.
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