Nigeria has the potential to go ahead with the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon and lift its first cup since 2013, according to African football expert Jonathan McKinstry.
The Super Eagles made a strong start in the continental tournament, advancing to the knockout stages after winning all three of their group stage matches.
After defeating Egypt in the first round, Nigeria defeated Sudan and Guinea Bissau by two goals, to face Tunisia in the final price match, which lost two of its opening group matches.
With a star-studded squad, including Premier League players: Quilfried Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Alex Iwobi (Everton) and captain William Trost-Ekong (Watford), he has become one of the favorites for the tournament.
Nigeria is the only team to collect 9 points in #AFCON2021.
The last time just one nation managed to finish the group stage with the full mark in a #TotalEnergesAFCON edition was in 2010: Egypt.
They went on to win the title.
🏆 #TotalEnergiesAFCON2021 |
— #TotalEnergiesAFCON2021 🏆 (@CAF_Online) January 21, 2022
"Nigeria has the second youngest team in the tournament, which it started strongly," says McKinstry, who has extensive experience in African football, having spent management periods at the helm of Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Uganda.
"Traditionally, teams that start tournaments very well do not win the cup, as they advance their best levels and then fall back in the playoffs until they exit the tournament by knockout."
Bonjour #TeamMali fans 🤩📸.#CAN2021 pic.twitter.com/UdNYYm1Wth
— #LesAiglesduMali (@AiglesDuMali1) January 21, 2022
He explains that "there is another young team, Mali, which includes players active in the English and German leagues, led by Amadou Haidara, the future top scorer for Manchester United, and this team deserves to be followed."
"Mali is a fantastically talented young team that won its group, and from the start I saw it as the dark horse of the tournament," McKinstry added.
And he explained that "he is also following Malawi in the playoffs, after he excelled in the group stage."
The group stage of the tournament was marked by many surprises, as Algeria, the champion of the previous version, was eliminated, and Ghana - who was one of the candidates - was eliminated in the group stage.
The matches of the eighth final of the African Nations Football Championship (Al-Jazeera)
We must not exclude from the competition newcomers to the playoffs, such as Comoros, Malawi, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia and Cape Verde.
"The big teams are progressing a little bit slower," McKinstry points out. "Some of the smaller countries were able to prepare for longer, with all the players in the camps for a few weeks, but the big teams whose players play in the major European leagues, it was late to get into the camps until The few days before their first matches.
This means that the big teams may delay to create harmony among their players, and it takes them a few matches to find their footing.
McKinstry attributed the surprising results for some of the teams to improvements in infrastructure and facilities across the continent, which led to better coaching.
McKinstry, who was appointed coach of Sierra Leone in 2013, when he was only 27 years old, concluded, "There should be more African investment, not only in players but in coaches as well."Keywords: