Nigeria cannot afford to underestimate AFCON opponents – Amuneke

Nigeria cannot afford to underestimate AFCON opponents – Amuneke
Emmanuel Amuneke, head coach of Tanzania chats to media during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals press conference for Tanzania at 30 June Stadium in Cairo, Egypt on 29 June 2019 © Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

by Graeme Jackson

Saturday Jul 20, 2019. 13:00

Former Tanzania national team manager Emmanuel Amuneke says Nigeria must not underestimate their opponents for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

The Super Eagles, who clinched a third-place finish at the 2019 finals in Egypt this past Wednesday, will face Benin, Sierra Leone and Lesotho in Group L of the qualifiers for the 2021 edition.

Amuneke famously scored both goals in Nigeria’s 2-1 win over Zambia in the 1994 AFCON final and recently guided the Taifa Stars back to the competition after a 39-year absence.

The East Africans finished pointless in a tough group in Egypt against Senegal, Algeria and Kenya, with the team and Amuneke parting ways after the group-stage exit.

The Nigerian legend feels that so-called ‘smaller’ African footballing nations are closing the gap to the traditional giants.

“It would be an aberration if the Super Eagles decided to take Sierra Leone, Lesotho and the Benin Republic for granted, considering the fact that Africa football has taken a new height,” explained Amuneke.

“The performance of Benin, Madagascar, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau will serve as a testimony to what the Super Eagles should expect when the qualifiers start.

“Like I have always [said], preparation is key and we must select players with the right mentality to execute the matches without excuses.

“There is no doubt that the team did very well in Egypt to have at least claim the bronze medal. It will be nice to maintain the same spirit.”

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