Super Eagles captain, John Mikel Obi appears on course to finally get his 90th Nigeria cap, as he looks good to return to the starting line-up for Wednesday’s third place match against Tunisia at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, but it might be his last match for the team.
A combination of struggles with form, injury and age issues have coagulated to cut Mikel’s AFCON 2019 appearances so far to just two matches, both of which he could not complete.
He started and was replaced against Burundi and Madagascar, in the last of which he copped a knock in the knee that ruled him of the next two matches in the knock-out stage, but he has been cleared fit to feature against Tunisia on Wednesday.
That would give Mikel a chance to replicate the bronze medal-winning finish he had to his AFCON debut at Egypt 2006, when he was part of the Nigerian team that beat Senegal 1-0 on 9th February, with a 79th minute goal from Garba Lawal at Cairo Military Academy Stadium.
Mikel had also been part of the Eagles’ squad that beat Algeria 1-0 on January 30, 2010 at Estádio Nacional de Ombaka, Benguela, Angola in the third place match, only to finally get the gold medal he so much desired when Nigeria won the trophy at South Africa 2010.
He will now aim for a send forth consolation AFCON bronze medal, with everything pointing to a starting berth on Wednesday, as he had even been passed fit to feature in Nigeria’s last two games, versus Cameroon and South Africa, but they both considered too steep for him.
That, though, may not be the case this midweek, as Eagles’ coach, Gernot Rohr is expected to tinker with his squad again, thereby allowing some players who are yet to see action at AFCON 2019 opportunities to feel the pitch, with Mikel returning to captain the team in his milestone 90th match.
Incidentally, heading into the clash in Cairo, Mikel has already spoken of determination to make the best of what would most likely be his last official match for Nigeria, and equally promised that all the players will fight hard to salvage something from The Land of The Pharaohs.
Mikel avowed: “We are as disappointed with the result as our fans, but that is football. We really and truly appreciate the support of the Federal Government and also the NFF.
“We are determined to go into Wednesday’s game with renewed commitment and hunger so that we do not leave this competition empty handed.”