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Uche, Ejide join Eagles Camp, Ameobi's case closed

File photo: Super eagles praying after  a  training

File photo: Super eagles praying after a training

The last set of players being expected at Nigeria’s Super Eagles camp preparing for the 2013 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) arrived the team’s Faro, Portugal camp early Sunday.

The team’s Media Officer, Ben Alaiya, said in a press statement that striker Ikechukwu Uche who plays for Spanish side Villareal and Israel-based goalkeeper Austin Ejide have arrived in camp.

According to the statement released on Sunday in Abuja, the duo’s arrival swelled the number of players in camp to 31.

“The two players are the last set of players being expected and they still found time to train with the rest of the squad on Sunday morning,’’ Alaiya said in the statement.

He added that by lunchtime on Sunday, 31 players, including injured Uche Kalu of Rizespur of Turkey, were in camp battling for shirts.

Mikel, one of the foreign-based stars who arrived at the Super Eagles’ Faro camp on deadline day, said: “I actually had a knock two weeks ago and was told by Chelsea doctors to rest for some days. But I’m fit now and I actually started training two days ago with the first team at Stamford Bridge. So there is no fear about any injury. My presence here in Portugal shows I’m ready for the Nations Cup.”

Mikel arrived with his teammate at Chelsea, Victor Moses.

File photo: Super eagles praying after a training

Keshi, it was gathered, took time off to drill the players on fitness and game reaction for over an hour under the early morning chilly condition of about 10 degrees Celsius in Faro.

“At the end of the morning exercise, which started at 7:00am Portuguese time (8:00 am Nigerian time), it was obvious that all the players are primed for Nations Cup action, as they knocked the ball around, fighting for shirts to make the squad,” Alaiya said.

Keshi, however drummed it into the ears of the players that “they should not pressurise themselves into making the team at all cost, but must be aware that Nigerians are very expectant of a super outing at South Africa 2013 AFCON.”

Meanwhile, captain of the team, Yobo has declared that the Eagles are going to the Nations Cup to ensure that the glory days of Nigerian football are returned with a major trophy.

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“We are ready to don the colours of our nation and we will not relent until we reach our goal. Luckily, we have a coaching crew that understands us well, and I’m sure the players are ready to deliver”, Yobo was quoted as saying by Alaiya after lunch on Sunday.

The team’s Head Coach, Stephen Keshi, is expected to name the 23 players for the competition by January 9.

But Alaiya hinted that the squad to face defending champions Zambia, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia in Rustenburg-based Group C could be named a day earlier before Nigeria play a warm-up match against the Cape Verde Islands in Portugal.

The Eagles will be hoping to build on an impressive first warm-up last Wednesday when an experimental team that started with seven local players drew 1-1 in Spain against a Catalonia side containing several Barcelona stars.

The competition which holds from January 19 to Febriary 10 will see the Eagles playing their first match on January 21 against Burkina Faso.

Meanwhile, Nigeria have closed the Africa Cup of Nations door on Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi after he failed to arrive this weekend at the team training camp in Portugal.

Ameobi preferred to skipper a depleted Magpies team that slumped 2-0 at second-tier Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday to make a shock FA Cup third-round exit.

The 31-year-old striker made his senior international debut against Venezuela two months ago and was set to be included in a 23-man Super Eagles squad for the Cup of Nations between January 19 and February 10.

But once Ameobi was chosen in a provisional Nigerian squad, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said the player would not be going to South Africa for the tournament without giving a reason.

Although it emerged that a clause in the contract of Ameobi allowed the English Premier League club to retain his services during the tournament, Eagles coach Stephen Keshi did not drop him from the squad until this weekend.

“The chapter concerning Ameobi is now closed and we are looking ahead to the announcement of the final 23-man squad this week,” Nigeria team spokesman Ben Alaiya told reporters at the camp in Faro.

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