Ogenyi Onazi has revealed that the tension between former Super Eagles captains Joseph Yobo and Mikel Obi during the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa unexpectedly served as a source of motivation for the team, propelling them to secure their third African title under the guidance of late coach Stephen Keshi.

The Super Eagles faced a shaky start to the tournament, managing 1-1 draws against Burkina Faso and Zambia in their initial two group games. However, they bounced back with a 2-0 victory over Ethiopia in their final group match, thanks to a brace from Victor Moses.

Their journey to the next round set them against the tournament favorites, Ivory Coast, in the quarter-finals. This match saw the Eagles labeled as ‘underdogs’ by many football enthusiasts. Despite this, they emerged victoriously with a 2-1 win, securing a place in the semi-finals.

Emmanuel Emenike, the tournament’s top scorer, initiated the scoring with a long-range shot just before halftime. The late Cheikh Tiote equalized for Ivory Coast early in the second half with a header. However, Sunday Mba scored 12 minutes from time, sealing a surprising 2-1 quarter-final triumph and eliminating Ivory Coast from the competition.

The Eagles continued their remarkable journey, culminating in a 4-1 victory over Mali in the semi-finals, with goals from Elderson Echiejile, Ahmed Musa, Ideye Brown, and an own goal from Momo Sissoko.

In the final against Burkina Faso, a lone goal from Mba secured Nigeria’s third Africa Cup of Nations title in Johannesburg.

Ogenyi Onazi, who made five appearances in the tournament, disclosed that Joseph Yobo directed strong words at Mikel during a team discussion prior to the quarter-final match against Ivory Coast. Onazi recounted the incident, saying, “The Big Boss (Keshi) had a meeting with the team after our lunch, and when he finished, Joseph Yobo, the captain, said we should all wait. He had been having this little issue with Mikel. So immediately, the coaching staff left, he took a swipe at Mikel immediately, saying, ‘I know I have some issues with Mikel, but that’s okay. We have a very important game (against Ivory Coast) ahead of us, and I know I am not starting this game, but I know you guys in there will do us proud. Yes, we must have these small fights, but it is to strengthen us and show us that we are strong as a team, and I wish you guys all the best. You guys go out there and prove that we can beat these guys. It is good that we are the underdogs, and it’s better we are already written off by our country. We know that we have tickets already to go back to our country and clubs.”

Mikel responded, saying, “Guys, yes, we will fight ourselves inside, but let’s fight our opponents outside.”

The three-time African champions are set to face hosts Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea Bissau in Group A of the 2023 AFCON next year. The tournament is scheduled to be held in Ivory Coast between January 13 and February 11, 2024. It’s worth noting that the Super Eagles were finalists when Ivory Coast last hosted the tournament 39 years ago.

By Mickey

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