Nigeria, two time champions will look to climb onto the podium at this year's AFCON finals after failing to qualify for the 2012 edition.
Of the 16 participating teams, Nigeria has lifted the trophy twice (1980 and 1994), and were four times runner up and finished third on seven times. On the whole, they have been on the podium on 13 of the 16 times they reached the finals.
It was only in 1963 and 1982 (eliminated in the first round) and in 2008 (ousted in the quarter final) that Super Eagles did not make it to the podium.
For South Africa 2013, Nigeria is paired in a group in which the Super Eagles is considered favourite to win the group. Nigeria is joined by title holders Zambia, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia in Group C.
Coach Stephen « Big Boss » Keshi took over the reigns of the team in 2011. He was one of the pillars of the Nigerian golden squad of 1994, when the Green Eagles became the Super Eagles following their AFCON victory and their first participation in the World Cup (ended at quarter final stage).
Record participation for Yobo
Having coached Togo and Mali, Keshi, 50, is now handling his national team with mission to improve its image. He will exert his passion and the natural authority that his imposing personality exudes, thus the nickname « Big Boss » he earned while playing as central defender.
« I want passionate and committed players, players who are proud to play for their country, » he states. « It is good to see players working hard to win their place in the starting 11. Such struggle gives birth to a healthy competition. Nobody has a guaranteed place in the team. They have to battle to have it and battle to preserve it ».
In the meantime, the coach has already sidelined two regulars of the team, the attackers Obafemi Martins (Levante) and Peter Odemwingie (West Bromwich), attracting the wrath of the latter.
John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses who play together in Chelsea will be entrusted with the engine of the team, while Ikechukwu Uche (Villarreal) will play up front assisted by one or more Eastern European players like Emmanuel Emenike (Spartak Moscow), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev) and Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow).
The captain Joseph Yobo, who will equal the record of Nwankwo Kanu by playing his sixth AFCON, will anchor the defense. « We are going to South Africa to honour the colours of our country and we won't leave any stone unturned in our aim to accomplish our objective, » assured the central defender.