As the countdown to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) intensifies, the Super Eagles of Nigeria find themselves in a group alongside tournament hosts, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau.
Mikel, who played a pivotal role in ending Nigeria's 19-year AFCON drought in 2013, asserts that the Super Eagles will always enter the TotalEnergies AFCON as favorites, drawing on their rich history and three previous championship victories in 1980, 1994, and 2013.
“We are always favourites, this is every time we go into the tournament and it’s no different this time. Everyone knows that we are one of the favourites – not the massive favourite but definitely one of the favourites”, he said.
Victor Osimhen's triumph and the pursuit of a fourth AFCON title
Asisat Oshoala‘s parallel achievement in the women's category further heightens the country's footballing spirits.
The Super Eagles, guided by coach Gernot Rohr, embark on their AFCON journey with aspirations of securing a fourth title, a feat that would undoubtedly solidify Nigeria's standing as a football powerhouse on the continent.
Mikel's call for football resurgence and the evolving game
John Obi Mikel emphasizes the broader significance of a potential AFCON triumph, stating that winning the tournament would elevate Nigerian football to where it rightfully belongs.
“To be able to do it again will be a massive achievement for us which I think the country needs right now as well. We need to get our football back where it should be and by winning this tournament, it will take it back to where it should be”, urged Mikel.
Reflecting on the evolution of the game since their 2013 victory, Mikel acknowledges the stylistic differences in play but expresses belief in the potential of the current squad.
“Football has changed dramatically, and I think this group of players are a good young team and play a different brand of football than we did so let’s hope we can see a good performance from the Nigerian team”, he added.
He acknowledges the changing landscape of football while hoping for a stellar performance from the young and dynamic Nigerian team.
Super Eagles' Group Stage Challenges and Quarter-Final Reunion
The Super Eagles kick off their Group A campaign on January 14 against Equatorial Guinea, followed by a highly anticipated clash with hosts Cote d’Ivoire on January 18.
The latter matchup is a nostalgic repeat of the 2013 edition quarter-final, where Nigeria triumphed 2-1.
The group stage concludes with a fixture against Guinea-Bissau on January 22, setting the stage for Nigeria's quest to navigate the tournament and etch another chapter in their storied AFCON history.
As John Obi Mikel puts it, a victory in 2023 would be a “massive achievement” for the nation, rekindling the footballing glory that has defined the Super Eagles over the years.
This article was most recently revised and updated 2 months ago