By Albert Akota
Nigeria’s Super Eagles will today know their group phase opponents at the 5th African Nations Championship kicking off on 13th January 2018 in Morocco.
The Confederation of African Football has announced that the Draw Ceremony will take place at the stately Hotel Sofitel Rabat, which also hosted CAF’s Extraordinary General Assembly following the first ever African Football Symposium in Rabat in July this year.
The 16 teams that qualified for the finals have been drawn into four pots, from which they will be drawn into four groups of four for the 23 –day, 16 –nation championship.
Nigeria, winners of the bronze medals at the 3rd CHAN in South Africa in 2014, has been slotted into Pot 2, alongside Cameroon, Guinea and Zambia.
Pot 1 has host nation Morocco, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire and Libya with Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan in Pot 3 and Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania and Namibia in Pot D.
Group A will have its base in Casablanca (Morocco’s industrial and economic capital); Marrakech will host Group B; Group C will be based in Tangier and; Agadir will play host to Group D.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the first two editions of the CHAN, hosted by Cote d’Ivoire (2009) and Sudan (2011), but finished in third place in South Africa in 2014 after losing 1-2 to Mali in her first match and then defeating Mozambique 4-2 and host South Africa 3-1.
In the quarter –finals, the Eagles came from 0-3 down at half time to defeat Morocco 4-3 after extra time, but they crumbled on penalty shoot –out to Ghana’s Black Stars in the semi finals, before piping Zimbabwe to third place.
In Rwanda last year, Nigeria trounced Niger Republic 4-1, only to draw 1-1 with Tunisia and lose 0-1 to Guinea to crash out at group stage.
Meanwhile, NFF has signed an agreement with its players which it says will avoid the bonus and pay rows that have blighted the team’s past World Cup campaigns.
The NFF described it as an “historic and binding agreement that will eliminate all manner of rancour and distractions around Nigeria’s preparation and participation” at the World Cup in Russia next year.
Nigeria, who have qualified for their sixth World Cup, have reached the round of sixteen three times and been eliminated in the group stage twice.
The Super Eagles were involved in a protracted dispute ahead of the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil and a bonus row also disrupted their World Cup campaign the following year, prompting the players to boycott a training session.
Similar problems have affected other African teams.
Ghana’s players refused to train over a pay dispute at one point during the last World Cup and around $3 million in cash eventually arrived in Brasilia with a convoy of cars bringing the money to the team’s headquarters.
NFF director Shehu Dikko said no stone had been unturned this time.
“Every detail has been agreed on, match bonus for each match and each round up to the Final as well as share of income from Fifa money for each round until the stage we are able to get to at the finals,” he said.
The agreement was also signed by coach Gernot Rohr and team captain John Obi Mikel, among others, the NFF said.
“We are very happy and excited with this development,” said Obi Mikel.
“This is the first time since I started playing for the senior team that I would see everything regarding preparation and bonuses and allowances put down in black and white and a binding agreement executed.”