• As 29th African Nations Cup Kicks Off Today
• Cape Verde Eyes Upset Against Bafana Bafana
THE D-day is here. With public interest soaring and great expectations everywhere, the 29th edition of the African Nations Cup will kick off this afternoon with the host, Bafana Bafana of South Africa, taking on tournament debutants, Cape Verde Islands, in what promises to be a cracker at the National Stadium in Johannesburg.
Cape Verde pulled the biggest upset during the qualifiers by knocking off former champions, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun.
And coming into today’s opening game against the host South Africa in front of 90,000 hostile supporters, many blowing ear-piercing vuvuzelas, the coach of Cape Verde Islands, Luis Antunes, says there is ‘nothing to fear’ about Bafana Bafana.
There are anxieties that the debutants may suffer the same three-loss humiliation as Botswana and Niger in the last edition, but the 46-year-old air traffic controller is beaming with confidence saying that he has the magic wand to cut Bafana Bafana and their supporters to size today. The opening match will kick off at 18hours local time in Johannesburg before the cracker between Angola and Morocco at the same venue.
The Super Eagles led by former team captain, Coach Stephen Keshi, will take their tune against Burkina Faso at the Mbombela Stadium on Monday. The Nigerians, who are favoured to top Group C ahead title holders Zambia, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, will try again to bridge the ever-widening gap since it last lifted the trophy.
Ahead today’s kick off of the championship, former Super Eagles skipper, Nwankwo Kanu, says the team under Stephen Keshi deserves much more respect from Nigerians.
Nigerians have raised some fears over the team after some less than convincing displays in the build-up to the 2013 Nations Cup as they laboured to draw with both Cape Verde and a Catalonia selected side.
However, ex-Arsenal star, Kanu, said Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Zambia are afraid of the current Eagles and maintained if Nigerians believe in the team, they would gain in confidence and achieve great things.
“Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Zambia are no threat to Nigeria at the AFCON and so there is no reason for Nigerians and Eagles to be afraid of these teams,” said Kanu, who has featured in a record six Nations Cups.
“I am telling you it is other way round, they are afraid of playing this present Eagles. Football is all about what you do on the pitch and not the names in your team.
“The Eagles deserve respect from us all because they have not lost any game in recent times, while these other teams are finding it difficult to win games.
“I am therefore urging us all to believe in Eagles as that will boost the players’ confidence to go all out and do well in South Africa.”