Super Eagles fans 'should book their tickets' to AFCON already

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Gab Marcotti credits Napoli's front office for putting the team in position and acquiring the necessary players to win their first title in 33 years. (2:36)

As the Super Eagles prepare to face what should be a tough AFCON qualifying test this weekend, Villarreal winger Samuel Chukwueze is so confident of a Nigeria win against Sierra Leone he has advised fans they can book their tickets to Ivory Coast already.

Nigeria and Chukwueze, motivated by coach Jose Peseiro's oft-repeated ambitions of winning the Africa Cup of Nations title at his first attempt, have their sights set beyond this Sunday's game against the Leone Stars, which will be played in Liberia.

"Nigerians should expect a win because we have to qualify for the next African Nations Cup. They should just book their tickets because we are going to win and go there [to the finals in Ivory Coast]," Chukwueze said ahead of the game.

The Winger did not stop there, saying the target was to win the whole shebang: "We want to win the AFCON for sure, because we have great young talents and we have young players who are actually ready to fight.

"For me, I need to win a trophy with the Super Eagles because I cannot play to the end of my career without winning any trophy with the Super Eagles. This is our time."

In their last three games against Sunday's opposition, the Super Eagles have won just once, drawing the other two. The most jarring of those two draws was a spectacular comeback by the Leone Stars from 4-1 down to draw 4-4 in 2020.

As such, the cooler and more experienced head of captain Ahmed Musa is urging caution. Musa, who won the title in 2013, says the team should focus on the immediate goal first.

"It's not that easy to say you're going to the tournament to win," he told ESPN. "The most important thing is to qualify first. Of course our target is to win the Afcon but the first thing we have to do is to qualify first.

"We have played them before and we know how difficult they can be. And even though they are not playing at their home, they are still the home team and they will want to win."

There is additional motivation for Sierra Leone, according to Peseiro: "The situation is difficult for them because if they do not beat us, they cannot qualify.

"We expect a difficult match because last three matches against Sierra Leone, only this our team won one time, at home. Before draw 4-4 and away 0-0. Everybody think it's easy, it's not easy."

Both sides of the Nigeria coin have been on full display during this qualifying run. They struggled at home on the opening day against Sierra Leone, then travelled to Morocco where they smashed São Tomé e Principe by a record 10 goals, only to come home and lose 0-1 to Guinea Bissau. Then beat the same team by the same scoreline on the next match day.

Still, Peseiro expects to qualify and is keeping his eyes firmly on the prize: "We want to beat Sierra Leone and qualify for the Nations Cup.

"We have stars, we have good players who did fantastic jobs in Europe., But we need to be organised because they can't play well if our organisation is not good. And then we can go to AFCON and we want to go there and win."

The Super Eagles, with a forward line led by Serie A top scorer Victor Osimhen, who is also the leading scorer in the series with five goals, are looking to secure that qualification with one game to spare when the dust settles this weekend.

Their preparations have, however, been mired in some selection controversy after Peseiro left out red hot strikers Gift Orban and Victor Boniface, both of whom have a combined total of 42 goals in Europe this season.

But the coach defended his choices, saying: "I would like to call them, but if I call them, I have to put some of these other players out. I can only call 19 foreign-based players because our federation is not good in financial situation for that so I only call 19 players from outside.

"They did a fantastic job because they play very well. But Taiwo played very well also. Osimhen played very well.

"Someone says what about Ahmed (Musa). Ahmed is winger not striker. You cannot compare Ahmed with Orban or Boniface. I cannot choose 5 strikers. If I play with 19 players, and I choose five strikers, it will miss other positions.

"So for one decisive match it's better I call the players I know better."

Nigeria led the group on nine points until Thursday, when Guinea Bissau toppled them after a 1-0 win over group São Tomé e Principe. This has opened the door to Sierra Leone, who can put both the Super Eagles and Guinea Bissau under some discomfort with a win, and even threaten to displace one if they go on to win the final game against the new group leaders in September.

A win for Nigeria will secure their place with 12 points. A loss is not entirely damaging as they can still secure their spot with a win over São Tomé e Principe in September, but it would most certainly put Peseiro's ambitions in severe peril.