Nigerian team devastated by withdrawal

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Austin Eguavoen, the Nigerian captain, yesterday urged his government to rescind their decision to withdraw his team from this month's African Nations' Cup in South Africa.

Eguavoen described his squad as "utterly shocked and deflated" at Saturday's announcement that Nigeria were pulling out of the tournament because of fears for the players' safety, following last month's hanging of nine minority rights activists.

Eguavoen said: "We hope the government will change their mind so that we go to South Africa and gloriously defend the trophy we won last year. The government may have taken the best decision over safety, but what we think is right is playing in the tournament."

The head of the South African Football Association, Solomon Morewa said world pressure should now be put on Nigeria, whose squad includes Daniel Amokachi of Everton and Wimbledon's Efan Ekoku, to reverse their decision.