The ‘Guinea’ nightmare in Rwanda: Ezenwa, Orji optimistic history won’t repeat itself in Morocco


Exactly two years ago in Rwanda, Super Eagles home based team needed just one point
to progress to the quarter-final of the 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN).

Unfortunately, the team crashed out losing to Guinea 1-0 in Rubavu.

Super Eagles had four points going into the game against Guinea in 2016, same situation right now in Morocco.

Nigeria defeated Niger Republic in the
first game 4-1, held one of the tournament’s favourite Tunsia to a 1-1 draw, but lost on the final day to a less fancied Guinean side.

The story about poor motivation started a day before the game from the team’s manager Sunday Oliseh, he accused the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) of
treating the CHAN team poorly.

FLASH BACK – Oliseh revealed in the press conference; “I have been driving a car with an empty tank and I hope we won’t collapse tomorrow”.The words came to pass and the team collapsed on the matchday and crashed out, Oliseh resigned as Super Eagles coach few weeks later.

The difference between the experience in Rwanda and Morocco, is the calmness
and focus in the Super Eagles camp. We haven’t heard the coach and his players complain about welfare, in fact the Sports Minister Solomon Dalung has approved payment of all backlog before this important game on Tuesday.

Good news for the team though, NFF should also appreciate the calmness and maturity of this team.

Nigeria traveled to Rubavu from Kigali for the game in 2016. Interestingly, Nigeria have also traveled from Tangier to Agadir for the game on Tuesday.

There is also ‘Guinea’ in the mix again with too many similarities. Nigeria traveled to Rubavu with high hopes of returning to Kigali as group winners,  but the team ended up exiting the tournament so early.

Will Equatorial ‘Guinea’ shock Nigeria? Will history repeat itself?

Nigeria are currently top of Group C with four points going into Tuesday’s game, Equatorial Guinea have lost their two matches.

In 2016, Guinea had a chance to qualify and they achieved their mission against Nigeria, but in Morocco, Equatorial Guinea are playing for pride. caught up with two members of the 2016 CHAN squad who
are currently part of the 2018 CHAN Eagles, team captain Ikechukwu Ezenwa and central defender Orji Kalu, are optimistic history won’t repeat itself in Agadir on Tuesday night.

Ezenwa said: “We had good moments against Libya and it was a successful day for
the team, the victory helped our moral and confidence grow. Everything worked for us against Libya and the spirit is high in camp.

“After the Libya game we had a closed door meeting, and we shared the experience in Rwanda with the new players in the squad.

“The coach has spoken with us, we must be careful and stay focused all through the game.

A win or draw will be enough for us to progress and we are optimistic we’ll
scale through, we are taking the lessons from Rubavu into this game and we
are hopefull”.

Defender Kalu Orji on his part added: “We have been working hard and the momentum is high now, obviously we
have worked so much to correct the Rwanda experience.

“We are looking forward to the game and we must remain intact with this solid performance, playing as a unit and throwing everything in us into the game.

“We keep reminding ourselves what happened in Rwanda two years ago, and we have found ourselves in the same situation maybe with a more positive mindset this time.

“It’s more difficult facing a team playing for pride, because the pressure will be more on us to achieve the desired result.

Focus is important and we hope to finish top of the game, we’ll accord them due respect and get the precious points.”

The game between Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea will kickoff 7pm local time (8pm Nigeria time) on Tuesday, January 23rd.

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