The Katsina United shot-stopper is confident that the Gernot Rohr-tutored side will qualify for the continental showpiece to be hosted by Cameroon in another two years, but he retains fears about the team going all the way
Super Eagles goalkeeper Ikechuckwu Ezenwa is pleased with the quality of players that are currently available for the Nigeria national football team. Still, he warns that every member of the squad will have to give their very best if the team desires to be crown African champions in 2022.
Nigeria, Africa’s second most valuable team at the moment, already have one leg at the next edition of the African Cup of Nations. Rohr’s men sit atop of their AFCON qualifying group, having won their first two matches of the campaign, at home to Benin Republic (2-1) and away to Lesotho (2-4).
Boasting the talents of youngsters Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze, and Wilfred Ndidi, as well as the experienced heads of Ahmed Musa and Leon Balogun, Ezenwa does not doubt that Nigeria has the quality to be part of the party in Cameroon.
“I think it’s a good team, and everyone is doing very well at their respective club sides,” Ezenwa told Premium Times.
“We have a young side as well as experienced players in the team, and with the way things are going, by the grace of God, we will qualify like we normally do.”
But the veteran goalie knows that, at the highest level and in the hunt for the biggest prizes, talent is never enough.
Ezenwa has therefore urged his teammates to be careful and focused as the journey ahead is likely to be a tough one.
“But we need to be focused because the Nations Cup in Cameroon won’t be an easy one,” he warned.
“They know Nigeria has a young side with fast attackers, and before you know it, all eyes will be on our team.
“If you look closely, you will discover our players are doing well, and attention will be on these players before qualifiers restart.”
Nigeria made it to the semifinals of the last tournament in Egypt, losing to eventual winners Algeria. Senegal, 2019 runners-up, and Africa’s most valuable side are also favourites for the 2022 title.
But Ezenwa is even warier of hosts and five-time winners, Cameroon
“It’s not going to be easy having won bronze in Egypt,” he added.
“Besides, Africa knows Nigeria is a team to watch out for, and I just have to encourage my teammates to step up and keep working hard because Cameroon will be a team to beat, and it’s not going to be easy.
“We must keep up the winning mentality, and we will do well in Cameroon 2022.”
Nigeria have won the AFCON trophy three times, first in 1980, before triumphing at the 1994 and 2013 editions.