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The Chan Football Tournament in 2014 is set to begin in South Africa on January 11, with Nigeria predicted to win the soccer tournament.
Although Nigeria failed to qualify for the last two competitions, they are slated to advance along with South Africa, reported AFP. The team won the prestigious Cup of Nations last February.
Coach Stephen Keshi, former team captain on the team, and considered the main force behind that win, is back with the squad. So are four star players, including goalkeeper Chigozie Agbim and strike Ejike Uzeonyi.
However, midfielder Sunday Mba, who kicked the winning goal in the Cup of Nations final game over Burkina Faso, is not with the team after recently joining French club Ajaccio.
Keshi acknowledged that Nigeria is not a shoo-in since Mba and others are missing in action.
“It is not possible to build a team for a major championship in three weeks — not even Fabio Capello or Arsene Wenger can do that,” he told reporters.
“However, I know the boys are physically and mentally prepared for what lies ahead and are ready to make Nigerians proud.”
South Africa is poised to be a major player in the tournament as well, confident they can win for the first time since winning the Cup of Nations in 1996.
“Nothing is more inspiring to a footballer than having a packed stadium behind him. We face tough opposition, but I am looking forward to winning the tournament.”
Games are being played in Cape Town, Polokwane, and Bloemfontein.
There are four groups in the tournament; South Africa and Nigeria are both in group A, along with Mozambique and Mali.
Nigeria begins on January 11 against Mali in the Cape Town Stadium, after a match between South Africa and Mozambique.
They’re also scheduled against Mozambique on January 15, also in Cape Town.
South Africa faces Mali on January 15 and Nigeria on January 19, with both matches in Cape Town.
The tournament has the initial games, which are scheduled through January 22, along with quarter-finals, semi-finals, and a final match along with a match between third and fourth place.
South Africa and Nigeria could both end up in the finals despite being in the same group, because the second place in the group moves into the quarter-finals against the winner of group B, while the winner of group A will face the runner-up in group B.
Group B is Zimbabwe, Uganda, Burkina Faso, and Morocco.
Group C is Ghana, Libya, Ethiopia, and Congo.
Group D is Condo DR, Gabon, Burundi, and Mauritania.