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Preview: Nigeria”s Super Eagles, Morocco battle in CHAN final tonight

The Super Eagles of Nigeria are up against the hosts of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, Morocco later tonight in the final of the…

The Super Eagles of Nigeria are up against the hosts of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, Morocco later tonight in the final of the competition.

The biennial championship is designed exclusively for players playing in their domestic leagues.

This year’s final promises to be a cracker as none of the finalists had lifted the trophy before.

The depleted Home-based Eagles who have many stars ruled out already as result of injuries also have defensive midfielder, Ifeanyi Ifeanyi sent off in the semi-final encounter against Sudan.

Captain and goalkeeper, Ikechuckwu Ezenwa, will miss the final after suffering a leg injury against Sudan in the semi-final on Wednesday and will not be fit in time for the final in Casablanca.

Consequently, Plateau United stopper, Dele Ajiboye, who was named Man of the Match against Sudan is expected to start in goal.

Ajiboye will have to replicate that form tonight for the Eagles as they will be lining up against a Moroccan side who have been dominant going into the final match with their supporters cheering them on all the way.

Morocco dispatched their neighbours Libya in a 3-1 win in the first semi-final on Wednesday while the Super Eagles narrowly survived in the hands of the Desert Hawks of Sudan with a 1-0 win.

The crowd will be raucous and the stadium will be painted red and the referee will be under pressure.

This, Coach Salisu Yusuf acknowledged when he said in the pre-match conference, “We know the Morocco team will be backed by their fans but we have shown a lot of character in the previous matches.”

Another obstacle is the hosts’ danger man Ayoub El Kaabi who is the leading goal scorer with eight goals. He is going to be a nuisance to the Eagles’ backline tonight. That is why the Eagles’ giant central defender, Stephen Eze, must be immaculate today, else his team will pay a costly price.

However, the strength of the Eagles is their fight-to-finish spirit. They have exhibited enormous strength of character and twice they came from behind in the most bizarre manner to win. This has shown tenacity of character which the Atlas Lions must be ready to deal with.

Even at that, the Eagles must be ready to take their chances as many will not come their way, and avoid defensive slips.

Statistics show that the Nigerian side is ahead of Morocco so far in this tournament.

Libya played Nigeria in the group phase while Morocco needed extra time in the semi-finals. In this tournament, Libya have only been beaten in 90 minutes by Nigeria.

Also, Sudan has played both Nigeria and Morocco, drawing with the hosts in the group phase and losing to Nigeria 1-0 in the semi-finals.

These statistics may not be relevant but what transpired in the expectedly explosive 90 minutes tonight, starting from 8pm Nigerian time.

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