It cannot be a coincidence that the three CHAN tournaments have been won by DR Congo, Tunisia and Libya in 2009, 2011 and in 2014 respectively. These three countries have thriving leagues, so automatically boast more competent locally-based players.
Ghana has been runners-up twice, in 2009 and in 2014. Tunisia beat Angola 3-0 in the 2011 CHAN final in Sudan while in, 2014, Libya needed penalties to edge Ghana 4-3. What is quickly apparent is that the winners’ list is missing Egypt, whose clubs have won the CAF Champions League 14 times and runners-up on four occasions – they withdrew from the qualifiers.
Therefore, the challenge before the Super Eagles B has been reduced by a formidable one. So when the Eagles file out on Monday at the Stade Régional de Nyamirambo in Kigali, Sunday Oliseh will be hoping that his team can prove that the Nigeria Professional Football League has improved the players at his disposal and that they can get beyond the semi-final, their final stop in South Africa in 2014.
The journey in 2014 started with a 2-1 loss to Mali in Cape Town, before rallying to defeat Mozambique 4-2 before thrashing South Africa 3-1 to reach the quarter -finals.
There was another ‘Miracle of Damman’ in the quarter finals, where they came back from three goals down to beat Morocco 4-3. They were however stopped in the semis by West African rivals, Ghana, in a penalty shoot-out. They however defeated Zimbabwe 1-0 to clinch bronze – the best result in the tournament that will hold for a fourth time in Rwanda.
The Eagles will largely be judged by their second match against Tunisia, whose teams have won the CAF Confederation Cup in 2011, 2013 and 2015 and are ranked 40 in the world.
Without the mostly Europe-based players, one might be tempted to think that the Eagles would be feather-less in Rwanda but Oliseh’s A team has some players from the Nigeria Professional Football League, and that experience is sure to stand the team in good stead when they come up against Niger, Tunisia and Guinea in Group C.
The first match of the tournament is on Saturday between hosts, Rwanda and Cote d’Ivoire as the 16 teams jostle for victory and the attendant FIFA points at stake.
Morocco, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire and Rwanda
PREDICTION: Morocco and Cote d’Ivoire to go through
Angola, RD Congo, Ethiopia, Cameroon
PREDICTION: RD Congo and Angola to go through
Tunisia, Nigeria, Guinea and Niger
PREDICTION: Tunisia and Nigeria to go through
Uganda, Mali, Zambia and Zimbabwe
PREDICTION: Zambia and Zimbabwe to go through