Retired Ivory Coast international, Salomon Kalou, believes the Super Eagles are clear favourites to qualify for the 34th Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast after they were drawn in Group A alongside Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé and Príncipe.
The draw for the 2023 edition of the AFCON was staged at SuperSport studios in Johannesburg, South Africa on Tuesday.
Kalou, an AFCON winner in 2015, who was part of the draw ceremony alongside former South Africa captain Lucas Radebe said, “Nigeria will always be favourites and I believe that they will get through from this group.”
Former Super Eagles captain, Sunday Oliseh, also expressed confidence in the team’s qualification for the tournament proper without problems.
“Personally, I feel the Eagles should not have problems qualifying for the AFCON in Ivory Coast. There is nothing to worry about but we must get our house in order to achieve this.”
Oliseh’s former teammate, Tijani Babangida, stated that the disappointment of not qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar would spur the team to glory, starting with the qualifying campaign.
“It’s a big disappointment that the Super Eagles failed to make an appreciable impact at the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon and also failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar,” Babangida said.
“However, I’m optimistic that such disappointment will only spur the Eagles to be hungrier for success. The players will be more determined to make a big statement of intent at the next edition.”
Atlanta Olympics gold medallist Dosu Joseph said, “It’s an easy group but the pressure on the team is enormous and I hope that these players can shake off the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup and qualify for the AFCON next year.”
Also, Mohammed Lawal, a former footballer turned agent, is optimistic about the Eagles chances, but expressed concerns over the team’s organisation.
“We have the quality to qualify for the AFCON from this group but my fears are the lack of organisation.
“If we can’t qualify from this group, we should stop playing football.”
For the second straight AFCON qualifying series, the Eagles were drawn against fellow West Africans Sierra Leone for a place in next year’s final tournament in Ivory Coast.
Both teams were drawn in the same qualifying group on the road to the delayed 2021 AFCON. The Leone Stars forced a pulsating 4-4 draw with the Eagles in Benin City after they went down 4-0. Both teams then played out a goalless draw in Freetown in the reverse tie.