AFCON 2023: Drogba ready for ‘exciting’ Super Eagles challenge

AFCON 2023: Drogba ready for ‘exciting’ Super Eagles challenge
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During the AFCON 2023 draw, the host country Ivory Coast was automatically in Group A, picked by the Ivorian legend Didier Drogba.

When it came to Pot 3 and a pick for the final slot in Group A that already had the hosts Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea Bissau, Drogba must have been wishing – not Nigeria, Ghana or Cameroon.

Perhaps for Drogba, Mali, DR Congo, or Burkina Faso would be better.

When Sadio Mane dipped his hand inside the pot, swivelled the balls and pulled out a ball, the awws and aahs were audible as he announced Nigeria.

No one expected it, not even Drogba. Of course, his fears were understandable. The Elephants of Ivory Coast have only won twice against Nigeria in six meetings at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Every football follower knows that no matter how poor the Super Eagles get, they're still a strong opposition and one to avoid if possible.

It is not to say Ivory Coast, as hosts, cannot beat the Super Eagles, but any team in the world will tell you it is not a walk in the park.

Didier Drogba ranks Nigeria high

Sadio Mane picks Nigeria to face drogba and ivory coast
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Drogba and John Obi Mikel were on the podium for the draw. While there was palpable tension in the hall following the impending clash between Ivory Coast and Nigeria, Mikel was confident of success.

When asked about his impression of the group, Drogba spoke cautiously.

The former Chelsea legend rated the Super Eagles highly and described the upcoming encounter as an exciting challenge.

He opined that it would be a thrilling early test for the Elephants.

Despite rating the Super Eagles highly and describing them as one of the favourites to win the tournament, he said Ivory Coast is up for it.

He claimed it is the beauty of a competition like AFCON, so the Elephants are ready to take on the challenge and let the best teams of the group and all the groups qualify.

โ€œIt is a very difficult group. Nigeria is of course one of the favourites and to have them in our group, it is going to be an exciting challenge,โ€ CAFonline quoted Drogba.

โ€œBut we are up for it. This is the beauty of a competition like AFCON, so we are ready to take on the challenge and let the best teams of this group and all the groups qualify.โ€

Mikel Obi: Confident or cocky?

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When Akon laughed at the outcome of Group A, everyone in the hall understood.

On the podium were two former club teammates and national team rivals set to watch their countries clash again.

Expectedly, he asked Mikel what his expectations of the group were.

A rather confident Mikel said amid laughter that Nigeria is always Nigeria. He seemed unperturbed about the draw, and one could sense that he believed Nigeria could do another number on the Ivory Coast.

Mikel opined that Nigeria was one of the favourites to win the tournament, and that was it.

To many, Mikel sounded a bit overconfident and cocky. However, time will tell the eventual outcome.

An exciting draw

It was an exciting draw filled with colour and allure. The hosts pulled out all the stops to make an impression, and what a night it was.

Six groups, four pots and 24 countries produced a healthy match-up for the January 2024 tournament.

Following the draws, the main preparations can begin, and Drogba, who never laid his hands on Africa's premier trophy, can start mulling how the Elephants can overcome its foes.

This article was most recently revised and updated 7 months ago

Chooka Izuegbuna is a Sports Journalist with 20 years of experience in print, TV and Radio. He has worked with some of the top media houses in Nigeria, including NTA Network, Channels TV, TVC, Silverbird TV and MITV. Chooka broke his sports reporting teeth with The Game Football Weekly in 2003 as a cartoonist and reporter. Chooka has a passion for football and has been a fan of Enugu Rangers (over 30 years) and Real Madrid (Since 1996).