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Soccer News of Monday, 10 January 2022

Source: sportingtribune.com

AFCON: Eagles not among favourites -Ekong

Nigeria captain, William Troost-Ekong Nigeria captain, William Troost-Ekong

Nigeria captain, William Troost-Ekong, believes the Super Eagles can’t be rated among the favourites to win the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations which kicked off on Sunday in Cameroon.

The Watford defender said the mood in the camp in Cameroon has been very exciting.

“Everyone is willing to go the extra mile, which I think is amazing,” Ekong told Football Focus as quoted by BBC Sport Africa. “We understand the challenges that are in front of us, but we all try to support each other.

“And when it’s time to crack a joke, we know when to do that as well. There’s a brotherhood in the team. Every day is exciting. It feels like one big family.

“It’s not just about us; it’s about the whole of Nigeria. We know there are 200 million people at home that will want us to give our heart and soul when we play. Whenever we play, everything stops in Nigeria for 90 minutes. And everybody watches the game.

“It’s good pressure and we use that to motivate us. There’s that moment when you’re walking out and you understand the magnitude of being able to wear the shirt. That’s something really special.

“We’re not one of the favourites, which I think could be a good position for us to be in.”

On the disrespect being shown to the African competition, the 2019 AFCON bronze medallist said: “If it was the Euros or any other tournament, I don’t think there would be any kind of conversation like this. That would be ludicrous.

“I can understand it to an extent because we are leaving during the season, which is probably different to other major tournaments that are happening. But people already knew that it was going to be in January, for a long time.

“Unfortunately, I think quite a lot has been taken away from the tournament and the excitement that should have been there because of those questions.”

The Eagles vice captain further said AFCON was at the same level as World Cup or the Euros or Copa America and called on media across the world to give the tournament the coverage it deserves.

“There’s sometimes a misunderstanding of what kind of tournament it is,” Ekong continued.

“It’s on the same level as a World Cup or the Euros or Copa America. A lot of the exciting players in the Premier League are African. To see them all together defending their countries will be an exciting tournament, whatever people say.”

Nigeria have been drawn in group D of the competition alongside Egypt, Sudan, and Guinea-Bissau and on the prospects of coming up against Liverpool forward Salah, the 28-year-old defender said: “I hope he stays as far away from us and our goal as possible.

“This season he’s obviously been on fire and we all know how good he is, but at the same time I’m very confident in our team.”

The Super Eagles will open their campaign tomorrow against the Pharaohs at the Roumde Adjia Stadium, Garoua.