Nigeria took a big step in the banishment of the ghosts of the short-lived Sunday Oliseh era by naming John Obi Mikel captain of the Super Eagles on Friday.
Ahmed Musa, 23, who was installed captain by Oliseh after the former coach fell out with goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, said he thought it needful to hand over the armband to the more senior Mikel.
Oliseh’s short spell also saw the early retirement of striker Emmanuel Emenike and it was said that players felt belittled by comments which the gaffer made to them leaving many on edge and afraid of their future in the squad.
“I’m no longer the Super Eagles captain, John Mikel Obi is the Super Eagles captain,” Musa said to applause from the media.
The 28-year-old Chelsea midfielder, who made his Nigeria bow 10 years ago but was overlooked for the armband by Oliseh, praised the magnanimity of the forward whom he described as a “wonderful professional”. “It takes a man to come out to do what he did,” Mikel said.
Coach Samson Siasia called his team the “new Super Eagles” as he spoke of an improved spirit in camp that they hope will see them triumph over the Pharaohs who lead Group G with six points.
“We’re working very hard to make sure we come out and make Nigerians proud tomorrow(today)” Siasia told media. “Most Nigerians were actually afraid of the Super Eagles before, that was before, this is the brand new Super Eagles. This is the youngest group of players for the first time in Nigerian history that would play tomorrow.”
Nigeria face the seven-time African champions at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna needing to win before going to Alexandria for the return leg on Tuesday March 29.
Mikel who knows some of the top Egyptian players like former Chelsea player Mohamed Salah expects that his teammates would put in a good shift to secure all three points.
“It’s a game that we know we can win, with the quality we have in the team I think we have a good chance of winning the game and also going to Egypt to get the three points,” said Mikel.
Siasia will look to the pace of Victor Moses and Moses Simon to unlock the Egyptian defence while hoping that his side remains solid at the back. The heat of Kaduna is also a factor he’s taking into consideration as he says his players will try to conserve energy by not running too much.
It’s the biggest game of his new spell as interim coach of the Super Eagles and Siasia would hope to start on a grand footing.