Nigeria eye Confederations Cup glory

Super Eagles

Nigeria's Super Eagles

African champions Nigeria are confident they will shine at their second Confederations Cup, nearly 20 years after their debut in the traditional World Cup warm-up.

“We have not been given much of a chance at the Confederations Cup but like it was at the Africa Cup of Nations, we will surprise again,” predicted striker Brown Ideye.

Chelsea midfielder Mikel Obi is also backing Nigeria to become the first African team to win this month’s Confederations Cup in Brazil.

Cameroon boast the best African result in the competition when they lost in the 2003 final to France.

“It will be great to win the Confederations Cup and add to my medals collection. It will be another history for Nigeria and Africa,” said Mikel.

Super Eagles champions of Africa
Super Eagles champions of Africa

Nigeria first appeared at the 1995 tournament when it was known as the King Fahd Cup.

On their debut in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, they finished fourth after beating Japan 3-0, holding Argentina to a goalless draw before losing to Mexico on penalties in the third-place playoff.

The Super Eagles qualified for this year’s tournament in Brazil after winning their third Africa Cup of Nations trophy in February in South Africa.

Nigeria, African champions in 1980 and 1994, were not among the favourites to win this year but after they upset highly-fancied Ivory Coast 2-1 in the quarter-finals, they went all the way to beat giant-killers Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final.

For this month’s competition in South America, however, they will be without two key stars from the Nations Cup: striker Emmanuel Emenike and Chelsea winger Victor Moses, both due to injury.

Spartak Moscow star Emenike was the tournament top scorer in South Africa with four goals.

The big striker first suffered a long-term hamstring injury in the Nations Cup semi-final against Mali, which kept him out of the final, and he then hurt his knee in a comeback game for his Russian club.

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Chelsea have announced Moses, who provided the creative juice for the Eagles attack at the Nations Cup, is undergoing rehabilitation for a nagging injury and will only be fit again in July.

Skipper Joseph Yobo, who is closing in on a century of caps, has also been axed from the squad.

The Eagles, though, seemed to cope without their top stars after they were held to a 2-2 draw by 2013 Confederations Cup finalists Mexico in a warm-up game last week.

“We showed some good stuff against Mexico despite missing a number of players and we will even be stronger subsequently,” insisted coach Stephen Keshi.

Portugal-based midfielder John Ogu has taken his chance in Keshi’s team after he made his debut in March against Kenya in a World Cup qualifier.

Varese left winger Nnamdi Oduamadi has also staked a claim for a place in the team after his last-gasp equaliser saved Nigeria’s blushes at home against Kenya in March.

Otherwise, the core of the team from the recent triumph in South Africa such as goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, Sunday Mba, young defenders Kenneth Omeruo and Godfrey Oboabona and Ogenyi Onazi will again be on show.

Ahmed Musa did not live up to expectations at the Nations Cup, but he has since won a league and cup double with Russian club CSKA Moscow, and he could well rise to the occasion in Brazil.

Musa may not have shone at the Nations Cup but he produced the only goal in a crucial 2014 World Cup qualifying win in Nairobi against Kenya on Wednesday to give the Super Eagles a much needed boost in their bid to be back in Brazil next year for the World Cup finals.

Keshi will hope not to lose more players before they head to the Confed Cup as they have another qualifier against minnows Namibia before the big kick-off in Brasilia.

The Super Eagles begin their campaign in Brazil on June 17 against tiny Tahiti, before they tackle Uruguay three days later.

Their final Group B match will be on June 23 against double European champions and current World Cup holders, Spain.

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