William Troost-Ekong

Super Eagles defender William Ekong on Monday said he was confident that Nigeria would qualify for the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

The three-time African champions will face Seychelles on Saturday in their second group E game after losing their first game 2-0 to South Africa in their first game in June last year.

Ekong is expected to partner Leon Balogun in central defense, barring any last minute hitch.

He was quoted on the Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) website as saying that if the team performs at its optimal level, there was no reason why they cannot qualify for the tournament.

Ekong noted that the disappointment of not qualifying for the second round at the 2018 FIFA World Cup was enough to spur the team to qualify for the 2019 AFCON.

“I think we have demonstrated now that when Nigeria plays at its best there aren’t many teams we have to fear.

“But it will be a hard job in the next two months and I know the boys and staff are taking these games very seriously.

“But of course, I believe if we perform at our optimum, we will garner the points from the remaining matches and qualify for the final tournament.

“It was hard for all of us not to make progress from the group stage at the World Cup.

“But I still look back with pride about the team because our outing in Russia has definitely made us hungrier to qualify for the 2019 AFCON and to go all the way there,’’ he said.

The 25-year-old defender also revealed that his aim was to win more laurels with the Super Eagles.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Udinese defender was a member of Nigeria’s Rio 2016 men’s football team that won bronze.

“It has been amazing being able to represent Nigeria for some years now, putting on the green-white-green with pride.

“I am proud of the medal we brought home to Nigeria from the Olympics Football Tournament in Brazil in 2016, but my big aim is to win something with the Super Eagles.

“I am really looking forward to that,’’ he said.

The former Gent defender also revealed that his move to the Italian Serie A had brought out the best in him.

“It has been hard work, persistence and the help of God. I’m grateful for where I am now but definitely not satisfied yet; I’m looking forward to the next challenge.

“It has pulled me out of my comfort zone again and I feel like I’m already making some good progress since my arrival, but I’m only just getting started,’’ he said.