Super Eagles Captain, John Mikel Obi, is banking on the fitness level of the three-time champions to play a big role when the 32nd Africa Nations Cup kicks off on June 21 in Egypt.
Mikel who returned to Eagles almost one year after he last played for Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup in Russia said at the team’s media briefing in Asaba yesterday that fitness level will play a big role in deciding which countries qualify from the group stage to the knock out phase.
“If you look back at 2013 (when Nigeria won the AFCON in South Africa), we were one of the fittest teams. We were well drilled as we were put through hard work during the camp. We knew exactly what we were doing. We were really fit,” recalled Mikel.
He revealed that it is almost the same fitness regimen the current class of Eagles are being put through ahead of the AFCON 2019 in Egypt.
“That’s exactly what we are doing now, training twice a day. If you want to win this trophy you have to do things like that.”
With hindsight, Mikel further observed that fitness plays a big role in African football.
“Well, I think obviously fitness is going to play a big part in this tournament, it always does when it comes to African football, fitness always plays 80 per cent part in who wins the tournament.”
The former Chelsea of England midfielder who ended his one-year loan deal with Middlesbrough at the close of the season is excited that the current squad under the watch of Franco-German coach, Gernot Rohr are brimming with excitement to make marks.
“I am happy that every player in this team want to do it, we want to achieve the same thing, we want to be in the finals and win the tournament but we also need to know we are not the outright favourite, we have to remain cool, calm, just do what we have to do, not look at other teams.
“If we do that, we’ll keep winning games. Experience will also play a big part.
The Eagles midfielder also commended the handlers of the team for having a very good mix of experienced and up coming players.
Mikel will play his 21st game at the AFCON in Egypt if he is selected in the final 23-man squad for Nigeria’s opening game against Burundi on June 22.
Meanwhile, Shanghai Greenland Shenhua striker, Odion Jude Ighalo and Udinese central defender, William Troost-Ekong have finally joined their colleagues for the final tune up before departing for Egypt.
Super Eagles Media Officer, Toyin Ibitoye confirmed that the two players arrived camp yesterday and took part in the evening workout at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba.
While Troost-Ekong had muscular problems towards the end of the 2018-2019 season, Ighalo just recovered from a hamstring problem which kept him on the sidelines for about three weeks.
The Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers top scorer has not played competitively for his Chinese club since May 10 as manager Quique Sánchez Flores refused to risk him against Chongqing Dangdai Lifan (June 1), four days after the striker resumed full training.