Super Eagles’ captain, John Mikel Obi has expressed strong hope that he will be able to lead Nigeria to conquer this year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, as he believes the array of young players in the team can make a world of difference and become champions of the continent.
Although he acknowledged that the squad which last won the title for Nigeria at South Africa 2013 was laced with many experienced players, Mikel is of a view that the blend of youth and old brains in the side to Egypt 2019 could also rise to the occasion.
Mikel admitted, though, that the onus will be on him and the team’s set of older players, like Kenneth Omeruo, Shehu Abdullahi and Ahmed Musa, to lead by example and inspire the younger ones to glory in Egypt.
While serving a strong hint that he could be heading for his last outing at the Nations Cup, considering that he debuted in the competition way back in 2006, Mikel stressed that the deep level of youthful talent the Nigerian roster to Egypt 2019 can never be written off.
He added during Mega Sports on Star 101.5 FM, Lagos that seeing such youngsters like Samuel Chukwueze, Paul Onuachu and Vioctor Osimhen showing immense abilities and talent during training with the Eagles has added to his optimism that he can lead the team to win AFCON 2019.
The former Lyn Oslo of Norway, Chelsea of England and Tianjin Teda of China star, who last played in a short-term contract with Middlesbrough in the English Championship, said he will not categorically rule himself out of AFCON 2021, but admitted his exit handwriting is on the wall.
Mikel affirmed: “I will not completely rule myself out of playing at the next Nations Cup, but it may be tough, as would then be 34 years old.
“That’s why I would love to see if we can win this year’s competition in Egypt. I think we can, like we did in 2013, because of the kind of team we have going to Egypt this year.
“In 2013, we had more experienced players in the team; with ages like 26/27, unlike what we have now that is around 18.
“Now we have more youthful players, but it’s a good thing. I think it’s good for the country, because they are incredible talents.
“Chukwueze, Onuachu, Osimhen, they are all doing well; they can do well when inspired with the experience of me, Musa, Shehu, others.
“Hopefully, if we can come out in our group, it willbe good for us, and we will take it from there. I’m just hungry to win, I hope we will win.”