By Desmond Ekwueme
Victor Osimhen out. Paul Onuachu out. Odion Ighalo out. Leon Balogun out. Abdullah Shehu out…and Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis out. Yet this writer is convinced that Super Eagles will have the best AFCON tournament since South Africa 2013.
Each time the Super Eagles go into a tournament in “rag tag” form or the fans expect little or nothing from them, the team excels.
Fans least expected the South Africa 2013 AFCON squad to perform and even the NFF was poised to sack Late Stephen Keshi who led the team midway into the tournament.
Critics had condemned Keshi for taking six home based players and 12 players overall who had not tasted AFCON along to the tournament.
In the end, the team excelled. In Algiers 90, Clemense Westerhorf’s team wasn’t given a chance to perform in the tournament because he was barely one year on the job. He was building the team when AFCON came knocking
And after losing 5-1 to host Algeria in the opening fixture, Eagles went ahead to reach the final and returned home with the silver medal.
The Cameroon 2022 AFCON tournament has had too many headaches for the Super Eagles to contend with. First was injuries of a couple of players who were hurriedly replaced.
Secondly, was sacking of Gernot Rohr just weeks to the tournament and the appointment of Austin Eguavoen to take charge of the team on interim capacity.
Then came Covid-19 related issues which affected a key player and finally the refusal of a couple of clubs to release their players for the tournament.
With these issues, fans of the team are already losing interest and hope of the team excelling.
But 80% of Super Eagles players in this AFCON squad are thirsty of glory. Generally and arguably, this is the youngest team in this tournament and the players are eager to justify their inclusion.
A lot of players in the team have a point to prove. They came in as last minute replacements for preferred players who are out for various reasons stated above. These players in the AFCON squad definitely want to stamp their authorities and feet in the team by stealing shirts and shows as the Qatar 2022 World Cup playoffs approach.
It is a matter of players taking their chances. These are the factors that will propel the players to shine and surprise all including themselves.
Hunger to perform, youthfulness, desire to keep permanent shirts in the team and the absence of pressure from fans back who before now for the team to win the tournament for the fourth time are some of the reasons why Super Eagles may spring surprises in Cameroon.