Special Eagles captain eyes W’Cup slot from tough Nations Cup group

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By: Abiodun Adewale

Nigeria’s amputee football team, the Special Eagles, will aim to qualify for the 2026 Amputee World Cup in Morocco when they begin their Nations Cup quest against hosts Egypt at the Al Salam Stadium, Cairo on Saturday, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.

Since the inception of the Nations Cup in 2007, the Special Eagles haven’t missed the tournament but their only appearance at the World Cup was in Mexico in 2018.

Nigeria are in Group A alongside hosts Egypt, Cameroon and Burundi. Group B consists Liberia, Morocco, Uganda and Senegal, just as Ghana, Kenya, Gambia and Algeria will slug it out in Group C. Angola, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Rwanda are in Group D.

A place in the knockout stages of the 16-team tournament will guarantee them a place in Morocco and captain Safaradeen Oyeleke is upbeat despite the test posed by their opponents.

“We need to get out of the group and get the World Cup ticket first,” Oyeleke told our correspondent.

“Our group is tough because playing the hosts in the first game will attract a lot of attention and they won’t want to let their fans down as well. We have good players who are up to the task and I’m optimistic that we will be at the World Cup,” Oyeleke said.

“In Tanzania 2021, we played Egypt and it ended goalless. We have also played Cameroon before in 2019 in Angola and we beat them 2-1. Burundi are newcomers but we can’t underrate them.

“We just want to win all our group matches first, qualify for the World Cup and see how far we can go in the tournament from there.”

Aside from reaching the World Cup, the Special Eagles are also looking to improve on their last outing in Tanzania 2021, which saw them fall off from their second-place finish in Angola 2019, their best ever outing at the tournament, to seventh.