As AYC begins, Howard tips F/Eagles to retain crown
By Eddie Akalonu
As the African Youth Championship kicks off today in Algeria, former captain of the national U-21 team, the Flying Eagles, Franklin Howard has expressed confidence in the John Obuh-led team, stressing they will successfully defend the African title they won two years ago in South Africa.
The Nigerian side rounded off their build-up matches in north Africa during the week ahead of the 12th edition of the championship.
Howard, captain of the second set of the team in 1981, who told Saturday Vanguard sports he has followed the team’s preparations all the way said “I watched some of their qualifying matches against Tanzania and South Africa and I have also followed the last round of their build-up. I would therefore say there is character and flare in the players and what I saw can carry us through.
Therefore with last minute fine-tuning by the coach, I think we have the team that can defend the title, though the field is a parade of the best in African football such as three times winners, Ghana and twice winners Egypt. There are also Benin and host, Algeria making a strong presence,” he said.
While host Algeria open the tournament today in Ai Temouchent against Benin in a group-A clash, the Flying Eagles who will contest in group-B alongside Congo DR, Mali, and Gabon begin their title defence against West African foes, Mali tomorrow in Oran.
Howard, who expressed a strong belief in the Super Eagles re-emerging African champions in South Africa, said the Nations Cup win would be a huge tonic to ginger the Flying Eagles to do more in the competition.
“Like said, we have a strong team that can ward off strong challenge from other teams for the title. I would expect the coaches and players to go into the competition with a very strong will and same determination as the Eagles did in South Africa and play to win. If they can put all their mind to it, play as one whole unit and not as individuals,then I can see them winning that title again because at that level, we need such performance to up the confidence of our people, that despite the low level of activity at home, there is hope” said Howard.