Pius Ayinor, Tanger, Morocco
The Angolans are very hopeful as they prepare to take on Nigeria in the quarter-final clash of the 2018 Championship for African Nations. The match is billed for the Grand Stade de Tanger from 4.30pm local time (5.30pm Nigerian). The Angolan hope is embodied their manager.
Angola coach Srdjan Vasiljevic is optimistic about his side’s chances against Nigeria. The Angolans are unbeaten in the tournament and are yet to concede a goal. But incidentally their only goal came from the penalty spot in a 1-0 win over Cameroon. Now their fans in Morocco are hopeful based on their record so far.
Vasiljevic says, “We already made big successes by getting to the quarter-finals. I know we are facing our biggest opponent in Nigeria. We know what Nigeria represents on the continent and also international football and the type of quality players in their squad. They are the favourites in today’s game.
“We shall try our best to get result like we have been doing before now and do all we can to get the victory and qualify for the semi-finals. We don’t know what kind of team to put up against Nigeria.”
Nigerian delegation led by the sports minister Solomon Dalung met with the team two days ago to charge them up and the players responded positively.
The team captain and goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa said, “It is a privilege to be here to represent Nigeria. From our first day in camp we spoke to ourselves and decided on the slogan, ‘Operation Do Nigeria Proud.’
“We are very focused and determined and our approach is to take it one at a time. We want to appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR for his interest in our success. We will continue to work hard to ensure that we present this CHAN trophy to him in Nigeria. We also want to say a big thank you to the Sports Minister, our lawmakers and the NFF president for all that they have done and are still doing for us.”
Nigeria coach Salisu Yusuf has predicted a tough game.
“It will not be easy for us against a tricky Angola team. They are a team that generally adopts a defensive strategy and operates on the counter attacks. They have a very solid defence. There is some pressure on us because the ministry and even the federation want a positive result from us.
“There is also the expectation of Nigerians and the players are aware. After our first match against Rwanda, we worked a lot. It allowed us to qualify to the quarterfinals by topping our group and stay in Tangiers, a city we have acclimatized well.”
The winner of Sunday’s game will take on Sudan for a place in the final of this year’s continental competition. Sudan pipped Zambia 1-0 on Saturday.