By James Agberebi:
Former Nigeria international Nduka Ugbade feels the increase in the number of participating countries from 16 to 24 for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon is not a guarantee that the Super Eagles will qualify, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
CAF's executive committee on Thursday decided to expand AFCON and move the calendar from January/February to June/July from the 2019 edition billed for Cameroon.
The Super Eagles failed to qualify for the last two AFCONs in 2015 and 2017 and Ugbade believes that the team will face stiff competition from other countries for a 2019 ticket.
Nigeria lost their opening qualifying match 2-0 at home to South Africa and are already playing catch-up as Libya defeated Seychelles in their group's other match.
"Expanding the number of countries will only give opportunity to everybody and not just the big teams," the 1994 AFCON winner with the Super Eagles told Completesportsnigeria.com.
"It will serve as motivation to even the small teams especially those who have never qualified for the Cup of Nations.
"I think the Super Eagles should not wait until decisions like this come up, with our history in the competition, we should always think of being among the first teams to qualify and also win it."
Ugbade went on to back CAF for shifting the AFCON from January and February to June and July.
He added: "Taking the competition to June and July is also good because it will stop the usual complaints by European clubs about releasing players. Also it will give us the opportunity to see the best African players, there wouldn't be any excuse not to attend."