Former international player Waidi Akanni has voiced his apprehension about the Super Eagles’ prospects at the upcoming 2023 Côte d’Ivoire Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), citing inadequate preparation as the key hurdle, Soccernet.ng reports.
The Nigerian national team is ranked sixth on the continent and is classed alongside Morocco, Egypt, Senegal, Algeria, and hosts Ivory Coast as the favourites for the AFCON.
However, just a fortnight before the tournament kicks off on January 13, Akanni has expressed reservations about the Super Eagles’ chances of lifting the trophy.
Drawing attention to crucial areas of concern, Akanni pinpointed the need for improvement in the midfield, defence, and goalkeeping departments.
Akanni, a member of Nigeria’s bronze medal-winning U-20 1985 FIFA World Youth Championship team, underscored the importance of predictability in a team, a quality he finds lacking in the Super Eagles due to uncertainties about their pedigree.
The former Boston Bolts star suggested that the coaching staff missed an opportunity by not including home-based players in the final squad for the tournament.
He advocated for a more inclusive approach, especially considering the challenges of assembling a full squad with players involved in the European season.
“My expectations are the same whenever Super Eagles play; they have become very unreliable. So, I won’t expect much from them because I don’t want to be disappointed,” Akanni told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, as per Igbere TV.
“Winning AFCON will be a miracle for Nigeria. It would be presumptuous of me to expect Super Eagles to come out tops at the championship.
“One of the elements of a team is predictability; I can’t predict them because I don’t know their pedigree.
“I believe I’m not the only one that feels this way about the team; a lot needs to be worked on in the midfield, defence, and goalkeeping departments of the team.
Akanni, a member of the bronze medal-winning U-20 1985 FIFA World Youth Championship team, said the team’s handlers should have included some home-based players.
“It has always been the same for AFCON with African countries because of the European season. It’s difficult to get a full house of players as a group till about a week before AFCON.
“I think the coaches should have given some home-based players the opportunity to compete for some positions, not only goalkeepers.
“The final list is predictable as we had all the former players both fit and unfit in the 41-man list.”
Nigeria, three-time winners of the AFCON, are drawn in Group A alongside hosts Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea.