Thursday 17th August, 2017
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CHAN Eagles battle Squirrels in Cotonou

CHAN Eagles battle Squirrels in Cotonou

Stade du L’amitie, also known as Friendship Stadium, Cotonou, is the battle ground as home-based Super Eagles trade tackles with the Squirrels of Benin Repub­lic in the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qual­ifying first leg fixture.

Nigeria failed to reach the finals of the first two editions of the competition exclusively reserved for footballers plying their trade in their countries’ domestic Leagues.

The Super Eagles won the bronze medals at the third edition in 2014. They howev­er could not make the knock – out stage at the fourth edition in Rwanda early last year.

The encounter on Sunday promises to be exciting and tough going by past meetings of the teams, despite the Super Eagles have enjoyed the upper hand.

At the 2004 AFCON in Tu­nisia, the Nigerian team strug­gled to beat the Squirrels 1-0 courtesy of a 42nd minute pen­alty by Yakubu Aiyegbeni. Also at the 2008 AFCON in Gha­na, the Eagles battled hard to outscore the Squirrels 2-0 with goals coming from the boots of Mikel Obi and Yakubu Ai­yegbeni.

It was the same story at the 2010 edition in Angola as Gar­ba Lawal and John Utaka fired Nigeria in front, while La­toundji scored a consolation for the Squirrels.

However, with the exclusion of foreign-based players from this competition, the Benin Republic boys have proven to be a strong side going by their impressive performance, hav­ing stopped the Hawks of Togo in the early round of the qual­ifiers.

Available information indi­cates that the Squirrels, who will be parading about seven Nigerians in their squad, are determined to shock Nigeria.

The Eagles under head coach Salisu Yusuf are opti­mistic of recording a good re­sult and will be banking on the experiences of captain, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Siki­ru Olatubosun, Osas Okoro, Stephen Odey, Orji Kalu, Al­hassan Ibrahim and others to make victory possible and make the return leg a mere for­mality game.

The team will fly from Kano to Lagos on Friday and then make the short trip to Coto­nou by road same day.

The return leg will hold at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano, on Saturday, 19th Au­gust, with the winner qualify­ing for the 5th African Nations Championship scheduled for Kenya early next year.