November 20, 2017

Ezenwa wary of CHAN rivals

Ezenwa wary of CHAN rivals


Nigeria captain Ikechukwu Ezenwa has warned against complacency as they seek to shed an underachievers tag at African Nations Championship (CHAN) tournaments.


Considered one of the favourites for the 2018 title in the competition for home-based stars, Nigeria were placed in Group C with Libya, Rwanda and Equatorial Guinea.

Nigeria failed to qualify for the first two of four previous tournaments, then finished third in 2014 before making a shock exit after the first round last year.

Many Nigerian supporters believe the country will coast to a top-two group finish in January and secure a quarter-finals slot, but Ezenwa is wary of their rivals.

“Libya must be respected as they have been CHAN champions while Rwanda lost narrowly to eventual winners the Democratic Republic of Congo in the quarter-finals last year,” he warned.

“Many of the Equatorial Guinea team will have experience of playing World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers so we dare not underestimate them either.”

Nigeria debut against Rwanda, face Libya in a match likely to decide first place and finish against bottom seeds Equatorial Guinea.

Home advantage and a strong domestic league are reasons why hosts Morocco should go far when they host a senior Confederation of African Football (CAF) tournament for the first time since 1988.

They are in Group A with 2016 semi-finalists Guinea, 2011 bronze medalists Sudan and Mauritania, who lost all three matches in their previous appearance.

Morocco meet Mauritania in the January 13 tournament opener in commercial capital Casablanca and any result other than a victory for the host nation would be a shock.

Ivory Coast, the 2016 bronze medalists, Zambia and Uganda are set to battle for qualification from Group B with debutants Namibia the outsiders.

Angola and Cameroon are seeded to progress from Group D at the expense of surprise qualifiers Congo Brazzaville and Burkina Faso.

Congo Brazzaville eliminated defending champions the Democratic Republic of Congo on away goals after two draws while Burkina Faso shocked twice runners-up Ghana by winning away.

Nations Championship matches carry full international status and count toward the monthly FIFA rankings.