By Gbemidepo Popoola
Super Eagles Captain Ahmed Musa and defender Kenneth Omeruo were in the Super Eagles squad that last won the Africa Cup of Nations title, back in 2013 in South Africa. They are also in the present squad that is at the cusp of glory in Cote d’Ivoire, with the Final match against the host nation taking place on Sunday night at the 60,000-capacity Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara in Ebimpé.
Two days before the match, Musa, who scored against Mali in a 4-1 win for Nigeria in the semi-finals in South Africa 11 years ago, and is Nigeria’s record goalscorer at the FIFA World Cup with four goals, was very relaxed in a brief chat at the team’s Pullman Hotel in the Plateau district of Cote d’Ivoire’s industrial and economic capital.
It is a feeling you can’t always properly describe. Winning the AFCON and touching the trophy is an unforgettable experience. Omeruo and I experienced that when we won in South Africa. But I want another one and he also wants another one. The good feeling and experience must be double-double.”
Devoted Kasimpasa man Omeruo, also very relaxed and in company with filial relations, corroborated the team leader: “We want that special feeling again – the feeling of being a champion of Africa. We have not gone this far to throw it away now. We have thrown everything into the six matches we have played here. We will give more than 100 percent against the Ivorians on Sunday.”
When Cote d’Ivoire hosted the competition 40 years ago, the Super Eagles also played in the Final match, but against Cameroon. The hosts failed to qualify from the group stage. That was an era when the final competition welcomed only eight teams.
Today, the tournament welcomes 24 teams (nearly half the member federations of CAF), making it a far bigger competition with so much glamour, glitz, grit, and plenty of drama.
After a 0-4 trashing by Equatorial Guinea in their final group phase game, many thought the Elephants had been eliminated. But Hakim Ziyech’s goal days later eliminated Zambia and sneaked the Elephants into the knock-out rounds, where they have prospered.
Nigeria’s on-field captain William Ekong says he expects Sunday’s Final between the Eagles and the Elephants to be a classic.
It will not be a tea party, and we won’t be going out there with a teacup. We will work hard and fight hard for the trophy.”
JOSÉ PESEIRO ON AHMED MUSA
Ahmed Musa is special and important to the team. He is my assistant, he advises me, he gives me the necessary support. He is committed in his role and can play. We shall wait and see tomorrow, but we want to win the AFCON for Musa to lift the trophy.”
EMERSE FAE ON THE BIG MATCH
The fact that Nigeria had beaten us is a good thing because we know whom we are up against. The manner in which we prepare for the match with our players is critical. I think that the Super Eagles and ourselves are at the same level.
We have a great opportunity tomorrow; we are 90 minutes away from adding a third star to the Ivorian jersey. The teams are on equal footing, psychologically. As the competition has progressed, the Nigerian team has gained strength. We had a very difficult journey at the beginning, but we gained momentum from the round of 16 against Senegal.”
Like any high-level match, like any final, it will come down to the details. We will be patient. We will not rush. We will focus on starting the match well and be patient in order to unsettle them.”