The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations was perhaps the most unique for Nigerians in terms of expectations and the caliber of representation at the tournament.
Nigeria entered the competition as underdogs with the late Coach Stephan Keshi not given the required support from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), according to widespread report.
The report even claimed that the football body had arranged for their flight back during the knockout stages of the competition but they have since denied the claims.
Nigeria struggled through the group phases of the competition and their qualification did not inspire confidence after they placed second behind Burkina Faso. The Eagles opened the tournament with a 1-1 draw against the Burkinabe’s and followed it up with another 1-1 draw with Zambia before scrapping through with a 2-0 victory over Ethiopia.
Fans of the Super Eagles were not enthusiastic about the form of the team especially when they were paired against pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast. It was expected that the journey of the Eagles will end at that point because they were up against world class players like Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure. The presence of the heavyweights looked like a miss-match against the inexperience of Godfrey Obaobona and Kenneth Omeruo.
However, the Eagles came out on top against all expectations. It was a brilliant 2-1 win with goals coming from Emmanuel Emenike and Sunday Mba. It sent Eagles fans into wild jubilation and restored the belief in the team.
For the first time, Nigeria believed that the team can go all the way and add to the 1980 and 1994 titles. The team wasn’t as spectacular as the previous squad but the composure of Mikel Obi in midfield playing alongside young horn Ogenyi Onazi gave the team hope. Vincent Enyeama was excellent, Victor Moses began to show his influence and the partnership between Brown Ideye and Emenike upfront was solid.
The Super Eagles took that confidence into the semifinals and hammered Mali 4-1 to setup a final clash with Burkina Faso. The Burkinabe were inspired by the prolific Aristide Bancé past Ghana in the second semifinal.
On February 10, 2013 inside the prestigious FNB Stadium, Johannesburg 85,000 fans watched as local lad Sunday Mba danced past the Burkina Faso defence to score for Nigeria just before half-time and that goal proved to be the winner. It was an incredible moment for Nigeria football as the Super Eagles lifted their third AFCON title.
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