Tomorrow’s CHAN 2018 playoff in Cotonou will present coaches Salisu Yusuf and Imama Amapakabo a chance to begin to carve a name for themselves at full international level, away from the shadows of their Super Eagles boss, Gernot Rohr.
Both Yusuf and Imama have already asserted themselves on the domestic scene with Imama leading Rangers to an historic championship only last October.
“We are ready for the task ahead of us and we will qualify the country to the CHAN in Kenya,” declared Imama to SCORENigeria
Rohr has joined up with the rest of the home-based Eagles in Benin after he spent a few days in their training camp in Kano earlier this week.
He will also be running the rule on his assistants as much as he would also be shopping for additions to his squad for next month’s all-important World Cup qualifiers against African champions Cameroon.
The names of goalkeeper Dele Ajiboye and midfielder Rabiu Ali are already being whispered as likely to be considered for the Super Eagles.
How they fare tomorrow inside Stade L’Amitie in Cotonou will certainly go a long way to make up Rohr’s mind about them.
It will also be an opportunity for other players not under the radar of the Franco-German coach to now get there.
“We are here for only one thing – victory,” Enyimba goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai.
“We are in high spirit and one big, happy family.”
However, the CHAN Eagles have been dealt a big blow by injury to on-form striker Sunday Adetunji and the NPFL all-time top scorer Mfon Udoh.
Adetunji, for one, has fired 14 goals for Abia Warriors this season, but his campaign came to a premature end last weekend when he fractured his hand at Lobi Stars.
Lobi Stars burstling forward Kingsley Eduwo now appears to be the man the team will rely on for goals with the league’s leading scorer Stephen Odey another option after he changed his travel plans to head to Europe on trials this week.
Yusuf is most likely to start the players he has worked with over time – Chima Akas, Stephen Eze, Osas Okoro, Rabiu Ali, Orji Kalu, Emmanuel Ariwachukwu and Alhassan Ibrahim aka ‘Muazzam’
Benin are coached by former international Oumar Tchomogo and parade several Nigerian players – Oguolola Ibrahim, Elegbede Jules – who will wish to prove they are as good as their compatriots if not even better.
Skipper Mama Seibou is a highly rated midfielder who has already been capped by his country’s full international team.
However, a proposed warm-up against Cote d’Ivoire was not played after the Ivorians preferred to play against Niger instead.
Additional report by Kola Daniel in Cotonou