Six years after their last triumph and subsequently, their last appearance, the Super Eagles made a return to Africa’s biggest football showpiece. On Friday 12th of April, CAF made the groupings for the 2019 edition which will be held in Egypt from June to July, with a couple of changes made to the championship which the West African nation having won the covetous tournament three times.
Not only has the natural date for the tournament changed from January-February to June-July to avoid club/country clashes but also the number of participating teams have increased from 16 to 24 with Mauritania, Burundi and Madagascar making their first appearance.
Also, there is a return for the likes of Benin, Kenya, Namibia and Tanzania after a long term absence of 9, 15, 11 and 30 years respectively.
The draw which took place on Friday 12th of April 2019, at an arena facing the Sphinx and the Pyramids in Giza, Egypt saw the Super Eagles get two of the tournament’s debutants in an easy draw. Here we take a look at Nigeria’s group B opponents.
Last Appearance: 2015
Best Performance: 1975 Runner-up
Nickname: Syli Nationale
Players To Watch Out For: Ibrahima cissé (Fulham), Naby Keita(Liverpool) & Amadou Diawara (Napoli)
Coach: Paul Put
The West African country is making its 12th appearance at the AFCON having last appeared in 2015. Apart from the 2nd place finish back in 1975, The Syli Nationals have appeared in the quarterfinals four times 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2015.
For the 2019 AFCON, the team qualified from a group which had Central African Republic, Ivory Coast and Rwanda picking 12 points from possible 18. Failing to lose any of their 6 qualifying games to book the top spot in their group.
On paper, they look like the only team who should give Nigeria problems and probably qualify alongside the favourites in the group. Head to Head the Guineas have played Nigeria 17 time across all levels and have both shared 5 wins each with 7 draws.
It’s a statistics that shows that Nigeria has never had it rosy against The National Elephants and the last time both teams met in 2011, they ensured that Nigeria missed out on the 2012 AFCON with a 2-2 draw in Abuja
With Liverpool’s Naby Keita, expected to lead the team, they are not of the quality to upset the Nigerians
Last Appearance: None
Best Performance: None
Nickname: The Swallows
Players To Watch Out For: Saido Berahino(Stoke City), Gael Bigirimana (Hibernian) & F. Abdul Razak (JS Kabylie)
Coach: Olivier Niyungeko
One of the three debutants in the expanded format, Burundi can be classified as minnows on the African football scene but they have recently shown that perhaps there is a steady of football in the country.
In 2014, The Swallows qualified for the CHAN, while their U20 male team made it to the group stages of that CAF U20 tournament earlier this year, in 2018 their female counterparts failed at the final stage to qualify for the FIFA women’s U20 World cup in France losing to Ghana in the last qualifying round.
Burundi made it out of a group that had Gabon, South Sudan and Mali with 2 wins and 4 draws also qualifying unbeaten, although they placed second Mali who finished atop the group.
Although many may not know of the team’s strength and weaknesses, they, however, possess their own fair share of quality players who can get the win if the big teams do not come to the party.
Players like former England youth international and Stoke City’s Saido Berahino, Fiston Abdul Razak who has 17 goals in 35 National team caps as well as young defender Christoph Nduwarugira can pop up with crucial goals. However, with Madagascar also in the group, it is hard to see Burundi qualify for R16 even as one of the best third-placed teams.
Last Appearance: None
Best Performance: None
Players To Watch Out For: A. Andrianantenaina (Ludogorets), F, Ramanamahefa (La Flèche RC)
Nickname: The Islanders
Coach: Nicolas Dupuis
What easier draw can Nigerian football fans ask for, other than have two debutants in the group. With Madagascar drawn in group B, the Super Eagles will face two newcomers in the group stages.
Unlike Burundi, Madagascar took the hard route starting the qualifiers from the preliminary stages beating Sao Tome & Principe 4-2 on aggregate. In the final qualifying stages they were drawn in group A with Senegal, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea winning 3 games losing 2 and drawing the other.
Scoring as much as they conceded (8goals) The Islanders qualified alongside Senegal with a game to spare, parading a host of players plying their trade in France and it’s lower leagues,they have been penned as potential dark horses, more so with the current CAF president from Malagasy it’s left to be seen how much motivation the team will drive from that into their maiden Afcon Campaign.
All things being equal, the Super Eagles are expected to top the group with Guinea following closely behind but with Madagascar’s impressive qualifying campaign they may likely beat Guinea to the second spot but in any case, they look best as one of the best third-placed teams to go through to the next round. Burundi is least likely to pull an upset but can at best take the third place off Madagascar if they are to make any point at this tournament.
Super League: Respect & Dialogue Needed To Restore Normality
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, disapproving the concept of Super League
President Gianni Infantino has called for respect and dialogue as he expressed FIFA’s strong disapproval of the proposed European Superleague project, and has requested that the concerned parties consider their position in line with respecting the institutions that exist to protect the interest of national, European, and global football.
“FIFA is an organization which is built on values, the true values of sport,” said the FIFA President in his address to the 45th Ordinary UEFA Congress in Montreux, Switzerland.
“It is an organization that is built on our statutes, the statutes that define the institutional framework, with the pyramid, with FIFA, the confederations, the associations, the leagues, the clubs, the players. And at FIFA, we can only strongly disapprove of the creation of a super league which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA, and from FIFA, which is outside of the system. There is no doubt whatsoever of FIFA’s disapproval for this.”
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, and a model that he promoted in his 16 years at UEFA:
“FIFA is here, and I am here today as FIFA President, to bring full support to European football, to UEFA, and the 55 member associations of UEFA and of FIFA, to the leagues, clubs, players, and to fans. To all the fans, all over Europe, and actually all over the world as well.”
“We can see that there is a lot to throw away for the short-term financial gain of some,” the FIFA President added. “People need to think very carefully, they need to reflect, and they need to assume responsibility. They need to think not only of their shareholders, but they need to think about all the people, of all the fans, of all those who have contributed to making European football what it is today. It goes back not only decades, it goes back more than one hundred years. People – with love, with passion, with commitment – have created all this. And we need to protect this. It is our task.”
“FIFA is a democratic organization, an organization that is open,” the FIFA President concluded. “Everyone can bring ideas and proposals, but always with respect for the institutions, leagues, associations, UEFA, and FIFA.
With respect for the history and with the respect for the passion of so many people around the world. I understand as well that on these particular days, emotions are very high, but we need to always keep the line. Football is hope, and it is our responsibility to make hope a reality. So we hope that everything will go back to normal and that everything will be settled, but always with acting responsibly, with respect, with solidarity, and always in the interest of national, European, and global football.”
2 Potential Manager To Replace Hansi Flick
Hansi Flick awesome reign with the Bavarian giant is gradually winding down, as it’s looking likely that he may not further manage the Die Roten next season.
Bayern Munich’s quest to win the Champions League consecutively came to end on Tuesday night, via the UEFA’s away goal rules having lost the first leg at home to Paris Saint Germain in the quarter-finals despite being the better side at home.
The Bavarian giant will now focus on league duty and they’re no doubt the team in pole position to win the Bundesliga, as the 2020-21 campaign is gradually coasting home with fewer games left to be played. In that regard, there is a great need for Die Roten to start preparing for next season administration and coaching wise.
The friction relationship between Hansi Flick and the Sports Director has broken down to such as extent that the manager has decided to terminate his current contract.
Hansi Flick sent shock waves through German football on Saturday after a 3-2 win over Wolfburg which keeps the Bavarian in pole position to retain the league title. Hansi Flick issued a statement about his decision to exit when the current campaign draws to a close.
“I told the team today that I informed the club during the week, after the game in Paris, I would like to terminate my contract at the end of the season.
“It was important to me that the team learn this from me because there was already a lot of hallway rumours going around.
“We’ve done a great job together for almost two years. I’m absolutely impressed with this team, their quality and their attitude.”
He added: “I also want to thank the club that gave me the chance to manage this incredible team.
“This decision was not easy for me. I’m a fan of this club. Gerd Müller, Paul Breitner, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge all were childhood idols for me.
“I’m eternally grateful to the club for the chance they gave me to become head coach here.”
It’s quite evident that a new manager would be appointed to pave way for a new rebuild of the team especially with the looming departure of David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, and Javi Martinez.
Two potential top managers that could succeed Hansi Flick, should he accept Die Mannschaft managerial position.
- Julien Nagelsmann – (RB Leipzig)
Nagelsmann has been rumoured as a possible replacement to succeed not one but many managers in Europe’s top-flight leagues whose future with their respective clubs are not guaranteed. This time around, the 33-year-old has been rumoured to be one of the possible potential managers to succeed Hansi Flick.
It could be argued that Nagelsmann is the tailor-made manager to take over the reins at the Allianz Arena, and there is no doubt RB Leipzig manager would certainly harbour the dream of managing one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Nagelsmann is presently focusing on the job at hand with RB Leipzig, plus the fact that he’s still under contract with his employers until the end of the 2022-23 season.
With RB Leipzig and Nagelsmann flying high in the Bundesliga in terms of team performances, with next season European football spot already secured, the club’s Executive Director Oliver Mintzlaff may consider letting him leave to join their rival.
However, it’s left to be seen how things would shape up at the end of the campaign.
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- Jurgen Klopp – (Liverpool)
The relationship the German tactician has achieved thus far with Liverpool started in 2015 when he joined the Kop from Borussia Dortmund, since then he has achieved quite an incredible success with the Reds winning their first league title after thirty years and a Champions League triumph.
Liverpool were eliminated early in both domestic cup competitions and failed to progress past the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and it’s quite impossible to say that the Kop will defend their title with their current epileptic form in the Premier League especially when it’s looking done and dusted that the cityzen would clinch the title.
Having used close to six years with Liverpool since he joined the Anfield side, this could be the perfect time for the former Borussia Dortmund manager to take up a new challenge. However, despite Liverpool’s unpalatable 2020-21 campaign, the German has often reiterated that he is in no way finished at Liverpool, despite been link to the Bayern Munich and Die Mannschaft managerial position.
Given his incredible success with BVB, it’s quite evident that he would one day go on to manage either Die Roten or Die Mannschaft. Should Bayern secure the service of Klopp, he would certainly be the right and wise choice for the Bavarian giant.
At the end of the campaign, there would be a breath of fresh air in the Bavarian giant camp, with the new CEO Oliver Kahn taking the mantle of leadership from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. In that sense, it’s left to be seen if the incoming leader would sanction the appointment of a new manager or stick with Hansi Flick. Only time would tell.