Nigeria are the serial third-place finishers at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. The Super Eagles collected the bronze medals at the previous three editions of the biennial competition, leaving stars like Everton defender Joseph Yobo craving gold.
"I have played in every minute of every match at three African Nations Cup tournaments only to pick up a bronze medal each time," lamented the defensive rock of a multi-talented squad led by Portsmouth striker Nwankwo Kanu.
Nigeria went down 2-1 to emerging Senegal after extra time at
Mali 2002 and lost a penalty shootout against hosts Tunisia at the
2004 finals. Then, two years ago in Egypt, a solitary goal proved
enough for Côte d'Ivoire to end their glory hopes.
"For some reason we always collapse in the semi-finals and I do not know why," continued Yobo. "We should definitely make the final in Ghana and do everything to win the trophy.
"All our players are in a great mood and we just want to make our country proud. Ghana is so close to Nigeria it will be like playing in a second home."
While Nigeria had a relatively easy passage to the penultimate phase in Egypt, there is no such luck this time round for the 1980 and 1994 champions with the Ivorians and a dangerous Mali side awaiting them in a highly competitive first-round group.
And if the Super Eagles do not get their wings clipped in Sekondi, there is the daunting prospect of a quarter-finals showdown with Ghana, who overwhelmed Nigeria 4-1 in a friendly in London last year. However, superstitious Nigerians point to the fact that the gap between their first and second Cup of Nations successes was 14 years, and the last was 14 years ago in Tunis.
Former FIFA World Cup™ winner Berti Vogts is under extreme
pressure to succeed where so many local and foreign coaches have
failed, and Nigerian Football Association officials have said there
can be no excuse for failure in Ghana.
Secretary-general Bolaji Ojo-Oba revealed that friendlies against top sides such as Mexico and Australia have been arranged and the often disruptive issue of bonuses resolved with a $49,000-per-player incentive to lift the cup.
"The players are showing the right attitude and the Football Association has also shown support. With all this I believe that the team cannot fail," vowed former Germany full-back Vogts.