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Written by on January 2, 2024

The Super Eagles are gearing up for a challenging Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign in Ivory Coast, as coach Jose Peseiro unveiled his 25-man squad last Friday. Acknowledging the tough Group A draw that pits Nigeria against hosts Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau, Peseiro stressed the need for focus and determination.

“The Eagles’ group is not easy,” Peseiro admitted. “Ivory Coast is a favorite with their good squad and home advantage, Equatorial Guinea reached the last AFCON quarterfinals, and Guinea-Bissau even beat us at home in the qualifiers. We need to be at our best every minute to succeed.”

Despite the challenges, Peseiro expressed confidence in his squad, which includes eight debutants alongside experienced veterans like Victor Osimhen and Ahmed Musa. He clarified that the decision to reduce the final squad from 27 to 25 players was made in collaboration with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) to optimize training efficiency.

“Current form and national team performance were key factors in player selection,” Peseiro explained. “Some who excel at club level haven’t replicated that with the Eagles, while others shine for the national team but struggle in clubs. We chose players based on their current fitness and dedication.”

One surprise inclusion was Chippa United goalkeeper Stanley Nwabili, who hasn’t featured for the national team since Peseiro’s arrival. The coach explained his decision: “I observed him in South Africa, spoke to his coach, and watched him train and play. He convinced me with his qualities and performance. However, the national team environment is different, and I hope he maintains his form here.”

Peseiro also revealed the Eagles’ pre-tournament plans, with a six-day training camp in Abu Dhabi including friendlies against Burkina Faso and Cape Verde. “We’ll work on improving speed, introducing different dynamics, and adapting to the tournament’s specific demands,” he said.

Nigeria, seeking their fourth AFCON title, begins their quest against Equatorial Guinea on January 14th. They’ll then face hosts Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau in subsequent Group A matches. Having last triumphed in 2013, the Eagles are determined to rise to the challenge and bring home the continental trophy once again.

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