You will not believe what Super Eagles boss said about Burundi and Madagascar ahead of AFCON

Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has made a strange declaration about Nigeria’s chances of qualifying for the knockout round of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) set to begin on the 21st of June in Egypt.

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The German tactician in charge of the Nigerian team has claimed that he is wary of 2019 Africa Cup of Nations debutants and Group B rivals Burundi and Madagascar even though most newcomers to the tournament tend to exit the competition at the group stage. Twenty-five of the 39 debutants — 64.10 percent — headed home after first rounds comprising two or three group matches.

Burundi, Madagascar, and Mauritania in Group E, could suffer similar fates this month as they experience a higher level of competition for the first time. Rohr, whose Nigeria team are among the favourites to win the June 21-July 19 tournament in Egypt, stressed that no opponents should be treated lightly. “There will be no easy matches for Nigeria,” stressed the 65-year-old ahead of their opening match against Burundi.

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The Nigerian Super Eagles are expected to win comfortably as they are 89 places higher than the Burundian Swallows according to the latest FIFA rankings. However, Rohr dismissed the effect of the rankings and said: “my team will never underestimate any opponent no matter what the rankings suggest.” Rohr added that Burundi had qualified instead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang-led Gabon and that should serve as a warning to his team.

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“Who is to say debutants cannot progress beyond the first round,” he said. “Guinea and Nigeria have to be extremely careful in the group. Countries making Cup of Nations debuts are usually dismissed as outsiders by the media, which takes all the pressure off them and makes them even more determined to cause shocks. These so-called weaker sides have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Our concentration levels from the kick-off to the final whistle have to be 100 percent.”

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While Rohr and Put preach caution, the reality is that since newcomers/hosts Libya came second in 1982, 13 of the 16 debutants were eliminated after the first round. In the modern era, South Africa are the only newcomers to become champions with home advantage, 80,000 crowds and 1,753 metre (5,751 feet) altitude factors in the success.

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The Super Eagles of Nigeria would begin their AFCON campaign on the 22nd of June when they take on Burundi at the Alexandria stadium in Egypt.