The Super Eagles of Nigeria, against the odds, have made it to the final of the 2018 African Nations Championship where they’ll battle hosts Morocco later tonight.
It’s a first ever final appearance for either side as they look lay their hands on the trophy for the first time, joining two-time winners DR Congo, Tunisia and Libya as the only countries to win the event.
After a slow build-up from the group phase, the Salisu Yusuf-led Eagles have grown on the tournament, and come up against the Atlas Lions who’ll fancy themselves as favourites coming into this one.
With goalkeeper and captain Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Sunday Faleye and Daniel James all ruled out for Nigeria through injury, and midfielder Ifeanyi Ifeanyi suspended after his red card in the semi-final win over Sudan, we take a look at the players who could make a difference for the Eagles ahead of tonight’s cracker in Casablanca.
The Lobi Stars striker has been far from his best in this tournament, with his touches and decision-making suspect at times. But he remains a key player for the side and could prove decisive as he did in the last eight win over Angola. His tireless running will come in handy for the Eagles, and coach Yusuf will only hope from a bit more precision from his no 9 today.
He’s proven to be Nigeria’s go-to guy in this tournament having come alive in the knockout stages with back-to-back goals in the last two games. Skilful and pacy, the Akwa United striker is the perfect link-up man for Okpotu, and will prove a handful for the Moroccans tonight.
The Plateau United goalkeeper wouldn’t have had a look-in but for the injury to Ezenwa, and he’s taken his chance brilliantly with his display in the semi-final win over Sudan. Good on the one-on-one and blessed of great positioning, a big performance may be needed from Ajiboye if the Eagles must sail over the rampaging Lions.
For Morocco, head coach Jamal Sellami will be counting on the predatory instincts on tournament top scorer Ayoub El Kaabi to do the damage against the Eagles. The 24-year-old has shot to the limelight with his record eight goals so far, and will have the hopes of a country on him later tonight.
Another player to watch for Morocco is Achraf Bencharki, who was leading scorer as Wydad Casablanca won the 2017 Caf Champions League.