NELSPRUIT, South Africa - Nigeria's youthful squad begins its African Cup of Nations campaign without any great expectations, but with team management insisting that the team's composition has brought a unity often missing from previous tournaments.
The Super Eagles missed out on the 2012 event in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, leading coach Stephen Keshi to omit several senior players in his successful qualification bid for this year's competition.
Captain Joseph Yobo is the only player over the age of 31 in the squad that travelled to South Africa, and says the atmosphere in the Nigeria camp is the best he has witnessed at a major tournament.
Nigeria kicks off its tournament with a game against minnows Burkina Faso at Mbombela Stadium on Monday evening.
"Previous squads I have been in we have had more experience, but this squad has an abundance of talent," Yobo said. "We did not qualify for the last Nations Cup, but this squad has been able to do it."
While Chelsea stars John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses will be present when Nigeria steps out on Monday, high-profile strikers Obafemi Martins and Peter Odemwingie were not included in Keshi's team.
Instead Russia-based forwards Ahmed Musa and Emmanuel Emenike have been given further opportunity to prove their growing abilities.
"We can talk about these players that are in their first tournament, but I think they are mature and they are experienced in their respective leagues that they participate in, so I'm not worried about it," Keshi said. "Maybe anxiety will come in but they can deal with it, because they have a lot of experience (at club level)."
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