Nigeria confident of CHAN qualification success

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi

Nigeria are in confident mood they can take a step towards reaching the African Nations Championship for the first time when they face Ivory Coast this weekend.

The sides square up in a first-round, first-leg qualifier in Kaduna with the winner of the tie securing a place at next year's tournament in South Africa.

The Super Eagles have twice failed to make the finals, losing to Ghana in the 2009 qualifiers and Niger in 2011.

But the reigning African champions believe they can establish a unassailable lead against the Elephants to see them through the return leg in Abidjan in late July.

"It is important, one thing we really want to do is qualify for the CHAN and I am confident we'll definitely be up for it," Nigeria Football Federation's general secretary, Musa Amadu told BBC Sport.

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has called on eight of the squad that came third behind Spain and Uruguay in Group B of the Confederations Cup in Brazil last month.

And Amadu is confident the class of 2013 can end the country's Nations Championship woes.

"Coach Stephen Keshi has had several training camps both in Nigeria and abroad with this team," he added.

"They've played several friendly matches against Egypt, Peru and other African countries. The exposure and experience they've been able to gather I believe would have toughen them, giving them sufficient experience to overcome Ivory Coast on two legs.

"The objective now would be to qualify for the CHAN third edition in South Africa in January 2014 and be able to win this competition.

"That way Nigeria would truly be African champions in both the African level and also in the African Cup of Nations proper."

While the Nigeria-Ivory Coast clash dominates the eight-fixture weekend schedule, the regional qualifying format ensures plenty of spicy match-ups.

Defending champions Tunisia have included three of the squad that beat Angola 3-0 in the 2011 decider for a home game against Morocco in Mediterranean resort Sousse.

The survivors from the Khartoum triumph are goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha and strikers Slama Kasdaoui and Ahmed Akaichi in a squad containing five players each from five clubs.

Coach Nabil Maaloul has chosen an equal number of stars from CA Bizerte Club Africain, CS Sfaxien, two-time African champions Esperance and Etoile du Sahel.

The best known member of a Moroccan squad based around the top Casablanca and Rabat clubs is veteran goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri of 1992 African Champions Cup winners Wydad.

Other fixtures include Senegal v Mauritania in Dakar, Mali v Guinea in Bamako, Burkina Faso v Niger in Ouagadougou, Democratic Republic of Congo v Congo in Kinshasa and Burundi v Sudan in Bujumbura.

Cameroon's match against Gabon will not take place because Fifa has suspended Cameroon from all football activity for "government interference" in the country's football federation's elections.

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