Fri, Jan 18, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Nigeria’s Super Eagles have sharpened their talons

AFP, JOHANNESBURG

Nigeria’s Super Eagles sharpened their claws by walloping Portuguese club Farense 5-0 with three days to go before the Africa Cup of Nations kicks off tomorrow.

Spain-based Uche Ikechukwu scored a hat-trick, and Emmanuel Emenike and John Obi Mikel one each, as a side that is among the favorites for the tournament in South Africa completed a four-match warm-up schedule.

It could have been a much wider victory margin as Nosa Igiehor was foiled three times and Chelsea midfielder Obi twice by the woodwork, with Nigeria dominating the second half after leading 1-0 at halftime.

As part of their warmup, the team that have finished among the top three in all but three of 16 Cup of Nations appearances drew 1-1 in Spain with Catalonia before a goalless stalemate with Cape Verde and a 1-0 win over Sparta Rotterdam in Portugal.

Nigeria are in Group C with defending champions Zambia and rank outsiders Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, and it would be calamitous for the vast West African nation if they failed to make the knockout stages.

The form of Ikechukwu was particularly encouraging for coach Stephen Keshi, as the Villareal goal poacher is set to team up with Emenike as the Super Eagles’ first-choice strike force.

Burkina Faso are the first opponents of twice-champions Nigeria on Monday at Mbombela Stadium in the north-eastern city of Nelspruit, near the world-famous Kruger National Park, followed by Zambia and Ethiopia.

The Burkinabe Stallions, who have gone 17 Africa Cup matches since 1998 without a win, continued a low-key buildup by defeating Swaziland league leaders Mbabane Swallows 3-1 in Nelspruit.

Aristide Bance, Mohammed Koffi and Wilfried Dah were on target for Burkina Faso, who are guided by Belgium-born former Gambia coach Paul Put and skippered by veteran striker Moumouni Dagano.

A couple of other country-club clashes, between Morocco and Bidvest Wits in Johannesburg, and Niger and Platinum Stars in the Indian Ocean city of Port Elizabeth, ended goalless with the Africa Cup sides experimenting.

Morocco are considered potential qualifiers from Group A, which includes South Africa, Angola and Cape Verde, while Niger are outsiders in Group B against Ghana, Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The injury concerns of Ghana continued with teenage striker Richmond Boakye-Yiadom limping out of a training session in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates city were the Black Stars are preparing.

Boakye-Viadom joined defender Isaac Vorsah and midfielder Anthony Annan on the sidelines, while midfielders Albert Adomah and Mohammed Rabiu received the green light to resume training.

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