‘...We can do it for a fourth time. It is possible

The stage is set for Africa’s biggest sporting fiesta, the Nations Cup as global spotlight on the 2023 AFCON turns the klieglights on the West African country of Cote d ‘Ivoire from January 13 – February 11, 2024 with 24 teams split into six Groups all aiming to win the coveted trophy.

The Terenga Lions of Senegal are the defending champions of the tournament and the team which arrived the host country late Wednesday are in high spirits as well as being tipped as key favourites to retain their champions status back to back.

Group A has host Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea Bissau (all West African teams) while Group B has Egypt, Mozambique, Ghana and Cape Verde battling for honours.

Group C has defending Champions Senegal, Gambia, Cameroun and Guinea while Group D has Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso and Mauritania as contenders.

Group E has Namibia, Tunisia, Mali and South Africa while Group F has Morocco, Tanzania, DR Congo and Zambia all seeking to progress to the next round.

This will be the 34th edition of the competition and Cote d’Ivoire is hosting the competition for a second time.

In this edition, Africa’s top three players , Victor Osimhen, (Nigeria), Mohammed Salah (Egypt)and Achraf Hakimi ( Morocco ) will be the centre of attraction as star players to behold. Others include Sadio Mane (Senegal), Vincent Aboubakar(Cameroun), and Mohammed Kudus (Ghana) all giving their best for their countries to excel.

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The 60,000 capacity Alassane Quattara Stadium will host the opening match this Saturday, January 13, 2024 while the Felix Houphuet Boigny Stadium will host the final on February 11, 2024, and for the first time in the history of AFCON, there will be no debutant.

Since its inception in 1957, the 34th edition in Cote d’Ivoire will be Nigeria’s 20th appearance with three title wins in 1980, 1994 and 2013 with an astonishing record of the most numbers of losers final medal (eight times) in 1976, 1978, 1992, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2019.

Qualification for the Super Eagles who were in Group A in the qualifiers was done in style with a game to spare as Group leaders from the comfort zone and fortress of the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo and massive support of the Akwa Ibom State Government.

On Sunday, January 14, 2024, Nigeria during lunchtime, after Church service will file out to begin their quest in dethroning Senegal in their opening fixture against Equatorial Guinea. The last FIFA ranking placed Nigeria amongst Africa’s top ten teams and the head to head encounters between both teams has given Nigeria an edge.

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Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy with the highest number of diverse languages on the continent with ethnic diversity and delicate religious beliefs is united by the power of the beautiful round leather game. Football has been our unifying factor, our bond, our one world of walking collectively and for the next one month, the conversations in homes, churches, mosques, offices, markets and other places will be focused on the AFCON.

How far the Super Eagles will fly in Cote d’Ivoire is just a matter of time within this period. Nigeria may not have had the best of preparations ahead of the tournament nor the best players or a great Coach that has the confidence of the people, but there is a conviction that the team can do well at the tournament, very well.

Despite injury setbacks on Victor Boniface, Sadiq Umar and Wilfred Ndidi, three key players earlier invited in the final selection process and plagued by injuries, the Super Eagles arrived Abidjan on Wednesday afternoon to a rousing welcome in high spirits with our starboy, the poster boy of the team and current CAF African footballer of the year, Victor Osimhen optimistic of a great outing knowing that over 200million Nigerians will have their eyes on his accuracy to clinically get the job done infront of the goal.

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For most Nigerians, our support will be tilted in patriotism, the need to have hope that smiles from the tournament will make us momentarily forget the challenges of the nation and perhaps, celebrate a possible trophy victory at the final.

Like the first stanza of the national anthem, we shall Arise as compatriots with the belief and faith that the Super Eagles will soar. They have the backing of millions of supporters, emotions will be high and we shall remain steadfast hoping the team gets to the final.

There is a new slogan trending in Nigeria for the New Year, ‘’We no go gree for anybody’’, that same Naija spirit will make the Super Eagles ‘’No gree for any opponent ‘’ at AFCON.

There will be so much hope from the fans, the Super Eagles must fly. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu wants to receive that trophy at Aso Villa, a day after the final. It would be a renewed gift in the spirit of a new found hope for a nation in dire need of something to cheer.

We can do it for a fourth time. It is possible.

©Amos Etuk