Nigeria would tomorrow begin their quest to win a fourth title in the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as they face the Pharaohs of Egypt in a group D opener.
The Super Eagles, winners of the biennial showpiece in 1980, 1994 and 2013 presented a 28-man squad for Cameroon 2021 in which 14 of them were part of the squad which won the bronze at Egypt 2019.
Interestingly, Nigeria this time will be coached by an indigenous trainer, Austin Eguavoen, who incidentally captained the Super Eagles in the 2-1 victory over Zambia in the final of the 1994 AFCON. Eguavoen, also coached Nigeria to win the bronze at the 2006 AFCON held in Egypt.
Should Eguavoen, who is the current technical director of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) win Cameroon 2021, he will be third to win lift the AFCON title both as a player and coach after the late Egyptian Mahmoud El Gohary (1959 and 1998) and the late Nigerian Stephen Keshi (1994 and 2013).
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Nigeria are going for their 19th AFCON appearance after 15-podium finish in the previous 18 appearances.
Sportingtribune here presents the 28 gladiators seeking AFCON glory in Cameroon beginning from tomorrow.
DANIEL AKPEYI: The Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper remains the most experienced keepers in the fold of the Super Eagles. After his debut in March 2015 against South Africa which ended in a 1-1 draw, Akpeyi, 35, with 19 caps so far was a member of the squad which won the AFCON 2019 bronze and kept in all the matches except the third place against Tunisia.
*FRANCIS UZOHO: The AC Omonia of Cyprus goalkeeper with 18 caps made his international debut in November 2017 in the 4-2 win over Argentina in a friendly. The AFCON 2019 bronze medallist played a cameo role at the last tournament in Egypt as he only featured against Tunisia in the bronze match.
*JOHN NOBLE: The Enyimba goalkeeper remains the only home-based player in the squad. Noble, 28, may be going to Cameroon 2021 to understudy the other goalkeepers moreso that he is yet to record an international debut yet.
*MADUKA OKOYE: The Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper is also a debutant at AFCON. Okoyo who has secured a move to Watford made international debut in October 2019 in the 1-1 draw against Brazil. Okoye with 13 caps so far stands a chance of being made the number choice at Cameroon 2021 given his pedigree.
*WILLIAM PETER EKONG: The Watford defender after his debut in June 2015 in the 2-0 victory over Chad now boasts 53 caps. Ekong, 28, is one the experienced defenders in the team as he was a member of the squad which won the bronze at Egypt 2019.
*KENNETH OMERUO: The Leganes of Spain defender is the second most capped player in the squad with 55 caps after his debut in January 2013 against Cape Verde which ended in a goalless draw. Omeruo won the 2013 AFCON and 2019 bronze.
*SEMI AJAYI: The West Brom defender with 15 caps came on as a replacement for Leon Balogun. He is a debutant at AFCON. Ajayi, 28, made international debut in September 2018 when Nigeria pipped Seychelles 3-0.
*TYRONNE EBUEHI: The Venezia of Italy player came in as a replacement for injured Shehu Abdullahi in the squad. Ebuehi, 26, now with 10 caps made international debut in November 2017 in the 4-2 win over Argentina in a friendly.
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*CHIDOZIE AWAZIEM: The Alanyaspor defender with 26 caps so far remains one of the experienced players in the squad. After his international debut in June 2017 in the 2-0 victory over South Africa, Awaziem played prominently when the Super Eagles won the bronze at Egypt 2019.
*JAMILU COLLINS: The SC Paderborn defender with 25 caps after his international debut in October 2018 when Nigeria spanked Libya 4-0 was a member of the squad which won the bronze at Egypt 2019.
*OLAOLUWA AINA: The Torino defender boasts 21 caps so far after his international debut in October 2017 in the 1-0 victory over Zambia. Aina is also Egypt 2019 bronze medallist.
*ZAIDU SANUSI: The FC Porto defender with only six caps so far made international debut in October 2020 in the 0-1 loss to Algeria. Sanusi is also a debutantant at AFCON.
*OLISA NDAH: The Orlando Pirates player is seeking first international cap ever. He made the AFCON squad as a replacement for injured
*WILFRED NDIDI: The Leicester City midfielder with 43 caps so far is one of the Premier League stars to watch at Cameroon 2021. He made international debut in October 2015 in the 0-2 loss to Congo DR. The Egypt 2019 bronze medallist is expected with his brilliance and current form to propel the Super Eagles at 2021 AFCON.
*KELECHI NWAKALI: The SD Huesca of Spain midfielder surprisingly made the initial 28-man squad for the competition. The 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup is yet to make international debut. His invitation came on the heels of his awe-inspiring performance in Spain, but will he be able to justify his inclusion in the squad to Cameroon 2021?
*CHIDERA EJUKE: The CSKA Moscow forward with six caps so far made international debut in October 2020 in a 1-1 draw with Tunisia. Ejuke who is now classed as another ‘Austin Okocha’ given his dribbling skill according to pundits could finally announce his arrival in football through Cameroon 2021.
*FRANK ONYEKA: The Brentford midfielder with four caps so far made international debut in October 2020 during a 0-1 loss Algeria. Onyeka, who has proved his worth since his arrival in the English Premiership side is a debutant at AFCON.
JOE ARIBO: The Glasgow Rangers star has been a delight to watch on duty for the Super Eagles. After his international debut in September 2019 in the 2-2 draw with Ukraine had had 12 caps so far with two goals. Aribo, 25, had the enviable record of scoring in his debut for Nigeria as he goes for his AFCON debut in Cameroon.
AHMED MUSA: The Fatih Karagumruk of Turkey forward is the most capped player in the team with 102 caps. Musa incidentally made international debut in
September 2010 under Eguavoen when Nigeria beat Madagascar 2-0. Musa and Omeruo are two surving members of the 2013 AFCON winning squad. The former Leicester City and Al Nassr of Saudi winger had 16 international goals under his belt. Musa who captained Nigeria to Egypt 2019 was on song last Friday when the Super Eagles beat CotonSport of Cameroon 2-0 in a tune up game played in Garoua ahead of tomorrow’s opener against Egypt.
*MOSES SIMON: The Nantes of France forward is also one of the experienced players in the Eagles squad with 43 caps and five goals to show. Simon made international debut in March 2015 (under Keshi) when Nigeria lost 0-1 to Uganda.
The Egypt 2019 bronze medallist’s work rate, pundits believe would propel the team greatly in Cameroon.
*TAIWO AWONIYI: The Union Berlin of Germany forward has only been capped once after his exploits in the national U17, U20 and U23 teams. The 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup winner featured as a substitute last October when Nigeria lost 0-1 to the Central Africa Republic in Lagos, and since then has been looking for a second chance to really prove his worth. Awoniyi has been in a devastating form in the Bundesliga this season scoring nine goals for Union Berlin in 17 games.
*ALEXANDER IWOBI: The Everton midfielder is going for his second AFCON competition after winning the bronze at Egypt 2019. The former Arsenal star with 50 and nine goals so far is expected to lift Eguavoen’s side in Cameroon with his wealth of experience. He made international debut in October 2015 [Sunday Oliseh] in the 0-2 loss to Congo DR.
*PETER OLAYINKA: The Slavia Praha midfielder came in as a replacement for Watford star, Emmanuel Dennis. He boasts two caps so far after his international debut in October 2019 under Gernot Rohr when Nigeria held Brazil to a 1-1 draw in a friendly.
*UMAR SADIQ: The Almeria of Spain forward is yet to be capped. The Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist is expected to use AFCON to win a regular shirt in the Super Eagles under a new manager after Cameroon 2021.
*KELECHI IHEANACHO: The Leicester City star after missing the last AFCON is back in the team and his current form according to pundits should propel Nigeria far at Cameroon 2021. The former Manchester City forward after his international debut in November 2015 against Swaziland under Oliseh had had 37 caps with 11 goals. The 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup winner on a good day is a deadly forward who can subdue any defence, and his inclusion in the squad this time is seen as a plus for Nigeria seeking a fourth AFCON title.
*SAMUEL CHUKWUEZE: The Villarreal forward is also one of the stars to watch at 2021 AFCON given his exploits in the LaLiga. The 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup winner made international debut in November 2018 against Uganda under Rohr and had 19 caps so far with three goals. Chukwueze was one of the revelations of the last tournament as he was able to lift Nigeria to win the bronze at Egypt 2019.
*HENRY ONYEKURU: The Olympiacos of Greece forward came on to replace injured Napoli star, Victor Osimhen, who also pulled out in the last minute having tested for COVID-19. Onyekuru with 15 caps and two goals made international debut in June 2017 when Nigeria spanked Togo 3-0 and made the squad to Egypt 2019.
*ODION IGHALO: The Al Shabaab of Saudi forward returned to international football last December in the 1-1 draw against Cape Verde in Lagos. Ighalo with 36 caps and 16 goals has not yet been released by his Saudi club after the NFF had registered him for the AFCON. He won the Golden Boot at Egypt 2019 after scoring five goals as he was highly instrumental in the bronze won by Nigeria at the tournament. The former Watford striker made international debut in March 2015 (under Keshi) when Nigeria lost 0-1 to Uganda.