Afcon 2019 EXCLUSIVE: Title is for Nigeria to win if Algeria fall - Yobo

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If Super Eagles defeat the Desert Foxes they are the favourites for the continental title, according to the ex-Nigeria captain

Ahead of Sunday's semi-final clash against Algeria, ex-Nigeria international Joseph Yobo has tipped the Super Eagles to win the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations title if they see off the North African country.

After missing the last two Afcon tournaments, the West African country returned to the continental stage for the first time since their triumph in 2013, and they are just two matches from winning their fourth title on the continent.

Before Nigeria battle Djamel Belmadi's team at the Cairo International Stadium for their 14th semi-final outing at Afcon, Senegal will lock horns against Tunisia in the first semi on Sunday.

In an exclusive interview with Goal, courtesy of SuperSport, Yobo revealed how Gernot Rohr's side have overcome their fears in Egypt and he believes they have what it takes to progress against the Desert Foxes.

"When you get into the semi-final you're favourites, and that's why it is interesting. The most important thing is for you to get into the semi-final because you're one game away from the final," Yobo said.

"In a final, sometimes you might not play well and you will win, anything can happen. Nigeria is very close, at this moment I think we're one of the favourites.

"People might want to downplay it but clearly, if we beat Algeria it is there for us to take. We need to do the hard job and beat Algeria which in my opinion, if not the most outstanding team then they've been one of the most outstanding teams in the tournament.

"They have done very well with good games but Nigeria have the momentum now, I think we've gone beyond our fears because we've beaten two major African giants that's South Africa and Cameroon. And that will give us confidence.

"At the start of the tournament, it is always difficult but I'm also looking at a Nigeria team that started slow but looking at the last two games in the knockout stages, Nigeria have shown up.

"That means we always show up when it really matters, against Cameroon and South Africa we did well. Against the big teams when it matters, we see the Nigerian spirit, their character and they rise to the occasion, so why not against Algeria.

"Nigeria is one of the favourites at the moment, it is a battle of four and the four teams have been very good. It is actually difficult to pick the no. 1 favourite who will win the title but the final will decide." 

Yobo PS

After keeping two clean sheets in their first two games, Nigeria have conceded five goals in their last three outings in Egypt.

As such, Yobo, who captained the Super Eagles to win their third Afcon title in 2013, has urged Rohr's men to keep working hard.

"I think at the moment, teams are making it difficult for Nigeria to play but there are a lot good players in the team," he continued.

"When you talk about [Samuel] Chukwueze, we know that these things take time but we saw the way he played in Villarreal last season.

"African football doesn't permit that so it comes with a bit of more patience, small game management and having the strong mentality that you can win because we are in Egypt to win.

"At the moment, it takes a solid team unity, believe and character because sometimes, I don't think quality wins every game, you have to put in the hard work. 

"When you play against teams that sit back how do you improvise to make sure that you get through them.

"We've seen all these attributes in the Nigeria team and I'm sure the coach knows what to do with the selection of players and I think that is key for us so we should put out the right players like he's been doing for us.

"Look at the Nigeria squad, it is not about those who are starting, we also have good players who can come off the bench to change the game in our favour. The bench is as strong as the starting XI but they just have to be ready."

Yobo PS

Yobo is one of the guest analysts at SuperSport for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

He was present in the studio when the Super Eagles suffered their 2-0 loss to Madagascar in the group stage and when they edged South Africa in the quarter-finals.

He revealed his mixed reactions to the results in the studio. 

"I was shocked, I was disappointed. I've been part of the team, played in the national team for 14 years so losing to Madagascar?" Yobo added.

"As much as the result wasn't in our favour, the coach was right to change some players because, you need the whole squad to win the tournament.

"In the studio, I was disappointed but I pushed myself up with the fact that we qualified and there are other teams that came to the tournament and didn't go through."

A last-minute effort from William Troost-Ekong fired the Super Eagles past Bafana Bafana on Wednesday, and the former Everton star said he was elated when Ekong converted Moses Simon's corner-kick.

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"I was buzzing, I was jumping and I was very happy because it was a good victory in a game that looked like a derby," he revealed.

"For us who play football, it meant that we're getting close to our dream, that's the semi-final so I was really impressed when we scored late.

"I was jubilating in the studio, as much as I was the captain before, I'm a big fan now. I rejoice even more than the ordinary fans because 14 years of service to the team is a big thing and I want to see them do well. After failing to qualify since 2013, I want to see them do well."