Nigeria celebrates as Super Eagles secure Afcon qualification

Nigeria celebrates as Super Eagles secure Afcon qualification

How did supporters celebrate the West African giants’ Nations Cup qualification?

Super Eagles fans took to social media en masse on Saturday to celebrate Nigeria’s qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations.

Even before a ball was kicked in their qualifier against Benin, the West African giants had already secured their berth in Cameroon due to results elsewhere.

Sierra Leone’s 0-0 draw with Lesotho in the group’s other qualifier meant that Nigeria, who headed into the match against Benin on eight points, could not be caught.

Benin, in second on seven points, remain in the hunt, as do third-placed Sierra Leone.

However, the Leone Stars—on four points—cannot catch Nigeria, while bottom-placed Lesotho (who face Nigeria in Lagos in the final qualifier) are entirely out of the running.

Predictably, the qualification was met with strong and emotional response across social media as fans flocked to celebrate the achievement and to back Nigeria for glory in Cameroon.

Despite an underwhelming qualifying campaign—complete with two draws against Sierra Leone—Super Eagles fans appear undaunted that the West African giants can go the distance at the tournament and clinch their fourth continental crown.

One of Africa’s biggest and most successful nations, Nigeria last won the Nations Cup in 2013 when they defeated Burkina Faso in a narrow final.

Their previous successes came in 1980—the country’s first success—and in 1994, when the Golden Generation conquered the continent.

There had been hopes, under the guidance of Gernot Rohr, that this tantalising Super Eagles generation could make the most of their immense quality and clinch the country’s fourth title.

The likes of John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses and Odion Ighalo may have all stepped away from the team, but there’s still immense quality in the form of Wilfred Ndidi, Victor Osimhen and Kelechi Iheanacho among others.

This generation has been celebrated for their achievements at club level, although their third-placed finish at the 2019 Nations Cup wasn’t perhaps as convincing as the bronze medal suggests as Nigeria were defeated by Madagascar en route to the semis.

Similarly, while the Eagles breezed through qualification for the 2018 World Cup—seeing off Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia in the process—they didn’t truly do themselves justice at the tournament.

Despite victory over Iceland, timid performances against Croatia and Argentina led to a first round exit, when a spot in the knockouts appeared to be well within their grasp.

The next Afcon, therefore, represents a golden opportunity for Rohr’s charges to make the most of their immense potential…but are they truly in position to win the gold?