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1980 AFCON Winner Segun Odegbami Says Super Eagles Can Go All the Way in Cote d’Ivoire

“I have unflagging confidence that this team will do it again. I have been saying it for some weeks now and the belief is getting stronger…”

Former Nigeria captain, Dr. Patrick Olusegun Odegbami has called on Nigerians at home and in the diaspora to provide ample support for, and have strong belief in, the Super Eagles to triumph at the ongoing 34th Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cote d’Ivoire.

Speaking on his radio programme on Eagle FM on Saturday morning, the one known as ‘The Mathematical’ in his playing days reiterated his much-vaunted belief that Nigeria will emerge champions of the continent for the fourth time at the final tournament in Cote d’Ivoire, and called on all patriotic Nigerians to do their bit in their own place and sector to back the team’s campaign.

“I have unflagging confidence that this team will do it again. I have been saying it for some weeks now and the belief is getting stronger by the day. That is why I drove all the way from Nigeria with my team, across the stretch of one thousand and one hundred kilometres of single carriage-way, all to cheer the team to victory.

“Some people have said that anytime we play or defeat Cote d’Ivoire at the AFCON, we go all the way to the Final, and even win it. That may be superstitious but there are facts in-there. Our team was not in a good place before the tournament and the opening game against Equatorial Guinea was not reassuring, but the victory over the host nation and one of the strong favourites has turned things around and we’re looking good.”

Odegbami is a true legend of the African game. He was top scorer of the 1980 finals that Nigeria hosted and won, in the process battling Cote d’Ivoire to a scoreless draw in a group phase encounter. ‘The Mathematical’ scored 23 goals for Nigeria in an international career that spanned seven years, during which he won the AFCON gold and two bronze medals, played at the 1980 Olympics after the Nigeria team was recalled from the 1976 Olympics as the country led an African boycott of the Montreal Games, and was voted third best player in Africa in 1980.

“I am very much convinced that this is our year and I want Nigerians from high and low places to support the NFF in whichever they can to motivate and galvanise the team. That win over Cote d’Ivoire has strengthened my faith. It takes a champion team to beat the host nation with such self-belief, panache and calmness.”

The Super Eagles have continued their preparation for Monday’s encounter with the Wild Dogs of Guinea Bissau at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny, in which victory will confirm Nigeria as group winners, barring a massacre of the Ivorian Elephants by the Thunder of Equatorial Guinea the same day at the Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara.

Guinea Bissau’s Dogs are pointless and largely hopeless but could be dangerous on the take as they have nothing to lose on the day.

“We are not in the business of under-rating any team in this tournament,” defender and on-field captain William Ekong said on Saturday afternoon. “Every single team that is here qualified to be here; no one got a free pass. We must approach every match with a business-like mentality. No team ever wins a match before the final whistle.” 

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