As the anticipation builds for the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire 2023, former Nigerian captain John Obi Mikel has boldly declared that the Super Eagles remain one of the tournament favorites.
Mikel, who led Nigeria to victory in 2013, expressed his confidence in the current squad’s ability to emulate the success of a decade ago.
Drawn into Group A alongside tournament hosts Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau, the Super Eagles face a challenging path.
However, Mikel believes that the rich history and pedigree of the Nigerian team make them perennial contenders for the coveted title.
In a candid interview with CAFOnline, Mikel acknowledged the team’s status as perennial favorites, stating, “We are always favorites, this is every time we go into the tournament, and it’s no different this time. Everyone knows that we are one of the favorites – not the massive favorite but definitely one of the favorites.”
The recent accolades received by Nigerian star player Victor Osimhen, who was voted the best African player at the CAF Awards 2023, further bolster the team’s confidence. Asisat Oshoala also replicated the feat in the women’s category, adding to the national pride.
Reflecting on the significance of potentially securing a fourth TotalEnergies AFCON title, Mikel emphasized the importance of reclaiming Nigeria’s football glory.
With previous triumphs in 1980, 1994, and 2013, as well as multiple runner-up finishes, the Super Eagles have left an indelible mark on the tournament’s history.
Mikel underscored the need for a victory to elevate Nigerian football back to its rightful place.
He stated, “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.”
Acknowledging the evolution of football since their 2013 triumph, Mikel praised the current generation of players, describing them as a “good young team” with a distinct style of play.
With the first match against Equatorial Guinea on January 14, followed by a clash with hosts Cote d’Ivoire on January 18, and concluding the group stage against Guinea-Bissau on January 22, the Super Eagles, under Mikel’s watchful eye, are determined to soar to new heights in the 2023 AFCON.