The Nigerian national team failed in their hunt for a fourth continental title, but a crucial two-legged affair against their bitter rivals is on the horizon
Former Moroka Swallows goalkeeper Greg Etafia has urged the Super Eagles to get over the disappointment of suffering a shock exit from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and focus on appearing at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Etafia admitted that the Eagles raised the hopes of millions of Nigerians with their brilliant performances in the group stage of the Afcon only to dash same with their defeat to Tunisia on Sunday.
The Super Eagles, led by interim coach Augustine Eguavoen, pulled off three consecutive victories against Egypt’s Pharaohs, Sudan’s Falcons, and Guinea-Bissau’s Wild Dog to ignite talks of being title favourites.
But a COVID-19-hit Tunisia carved out a slim 1-0 win in the first knockout round to unceremoniously dump Nigeria out of the tournament.
The biggest football competition of the year, however, comes up in Qatar later in the year, with the Super Eagles aiming to be one of Africa’s five representatives.
Having successfully navigated the second World Cup qualifying round, Nigeria have been drawn against eternal foes Ghana in the final playoff round. The aggregate winner of the two-legged encounter slated for March will join four other African nations on the plane to Qatar.
Etafia does not want the setback of the last few days to cloud the preparations for the crucial meetings against the Black Stars.
“There was a massive hope for the team,” the 39-year-old told Sowetan Live.
“We beat Egypt and the expectations were high. Everyone back home was hoping they would win the tournament.
“Still, there were a lot of positives we can take out and go to the World Cup play-off well prepared.”
A former Lobi Stars and Plateau United goalkeeper, Etafia only managed four international caps for Nigeria.
The Auchi-born shot-stopper currently plays for South African Premier Soccer League club Highlands Park, which he signed for in 2019, four years after first retiring from football.