- John Obi Mikel believes fitness will be a key-factor for Super Eagles and 23 other teams campaigning in AFCON 2019
- Nigeria return to the continental stage after missing the last two editions, with the aim of reclaiming AFCON title
- Mikel took out time to explain how fitness helped Nigeria conquer Africa during AFCON 2013 in South Africa
Super Eagles captain John Obi Mikel insists players’ fitness will play a vital role for any team with the mindset to emerge victorious at the forthcoming 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
According to Goal report, as 24 teams get set to challenge for honours in the North African nation later in the month, Mikel - who has featured in three previous AFCON tournaments – helping Nigeria win their third continental silverware in South Africa 2013, explained why fitness is key during the 24-nation tournament, with temperatures expected to be high in Egypt.
”I think obviously, fitness is going to play a big part in this tournament, it always does when it comes to African football. Fitness always plays 80 percent part on who wins the tournament," Mikel said during Thursday's press conference in Asaba.
”If you look back at 2013 when we won it, we were one of the fittest teams, we were well drilled, we put in the hard work during the camp, we knew exactly what we were doing. We were really fit.
”That’s what we are doing now, training twice a day. If you want to win this trophy you have to do things like that,” noted the former Chelsea star Mikel, who staging a comeback to the Gernot Rohr tutored-side after Nigeria’s exit at the group stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Mikel remains upbeat the Eagles has what it takes to claim their fourth continental title in Egypt after seeing the hunger exhibited by younger squad members in the Nigerian camp.
”I am happy that every player in this team want to do it, we want to achieve the same thing, we want to be in the final and win the tournament but we also need to know we are not the outright favourites, we have to remain cool, calm, just do what we have to do, not look at other teams. If we do that, we’ll keep winning games," he added.
“Experience also plays a big part, sometimes youthfulness also plays a big part.
”We have got a very good mixture in this team that’s going to help us. We have a very young team, they are all fit.”
The Eagles will battle Zimbabwe’s Warriors on Saturday, June 8, at Asaba and tackle Senegal’s Teranga Lions in the last pre-tournament test match in Egypt.
Nigeria will play in Group at the biennial championship against the trio of Burundi, Madagascar and Guinea.
Earlier, Legit.ng reported that Super Eagles pair Alex Iwobi and William Troost-Ekong will not be involved in Nigeria’s friendly against Zimbabwe’s Warriors at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba on Saturday, June 9.
According to completesports.com, Iwobi is expected to join the rest of the squad in Ismaila, Egypt after featuring in the Europa League final in Baku, netting Arsenal’s only goal in the 4-1 loss to rivals Chelsea.
On the other hand, Troost-Ekong, plies his trade at Serie A campaigners Udinese will also be missing in action after failing to make it to Super Eagles camp in Asaba.
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