The Nigerian national team last won the Afcon more than eight years ago, but the time is right for another title tilt, says the country’s leading goalkeeper
Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper Maduka Okoye is convinced that the Super Eagles have enough quality to win the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
The 33rd edition of the continental championship kicks off in Cameroon on January 6, despite intense pressure for it to be postponed or even cancelled.
Nigeria look far from being prepared for the Afcon, with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) sacking head coach Gernot Rohr less than a month to the tournament.
Former Nigerian international and 1994 Afcon winner Augustine Eguavoen was immediately named the interim head coach and was expected to lead the team to Cameroon 2021.
But NFF president Amaju Pinnick on Wednesday revealed that the Federation had reached an advanced stage in their search for a new technical adviser, and one could be appointed next week.
It is still unclear whether Eguavoen or the new substantive head coach will lead the Super Eagles to Cameroon next month.
But Watford signing Okoye ignores the drama being played out in the administrative offices and focuses on the quality possessed by the three-time African champions.
Defending champions Algeria, hosts Cameroon, and seven-time winners Egypt are the favourites to lift the Nations Cup come February 6.
Still, Okoye insists that Nigeria has the pedigree and players to enjoy a triumphant outing in Cameroon.
“We are going to the Africa Cup to win the tournament,” Okoye declared to Rijnmond, as per FcUpdate.
“Nigeria is a great football country, and we have a good team. Let me return to Rotterdam with a prize.”
Okoye, the Super Eagles’ first-choice goalie under Rohr, is likely to continue in that role under the German manager’s successor.
And Cameroon 2021 would be the 22-year-old’s first major tournament for his fatherland. Okoye made his international debut in October 2019, months after the Eagles won bronze at that year’s Afcon held in Egypt.
And the Germany-born shot-stopper admits it is a dream to play for the African giants.
“As a small child, I always looked at that and cheered the Super Eagles,” he told the Rijnmond. “It is a dream come true, so I really hope it continues. It will be one or two days of Christmas and then via Nigeria to Cameroon.”
Nigeria’s hunt for a fourth continental crown begins on January 11 against Egypt before other games versus Sudan and Guinea-Bissau.