Wednesday, June 29, 2022

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AFCON 21: Big Match Feature: Nigeria v Egypt

Nigeria’s Super Eagles get their Africa Cup of Nations campaign underway Tuesday with a stern test against the Pharaohs of Egypt.

At the 30,000 –capacity Stade Roumdé Adjia in the northern Cameroonian town of Garoua, fans will hold their breath as two pre-tournament favourites lock horns in a clash that could shape their Afcon journey.

Both teams are not unfamiliar to themselves at the AFCON, with the Pharaohs hammering the Eagles 6-3 in Nigeria’s first-ever match at the competition (in Ghana in 1963) and coming from behind to tame the Eagles 3-1 in the city of Benguela (Angola) in 2010.

In all other confrontations at the Africa Cup of Nations, the Eagles have had the upper hand.

On their march to victory in 1980, the Eagles sailed past the Pharaohs 1-0 in a group phase clash in Ibadan, and four years later, following a pulsating 2-2 draw in a semi final match in Bouake (Cote d’Ivoire), Nigeria won on penalties to reach the final against Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions.

In 1990, a lone goal by Rashidi Yekini consigned the Pharaohs to defeat in a group phase match in Algiers, and in 1994, both teams battled to a scoreless draw at the Stade Chadli Zouiten in Tunis.

Expectations

Nigerian head coach Austin Eguavoen, has made clear his team’s intentions in Tuesday’s game in the sunny atmosphere of Stade Roumdé Adjia.

He said, “I look forward to an interesting game between two ambitious teams. As I said a couple of weeks ago, we will take it one match at a time. For now, we see the clash with Egypt and all our plan is how to earn the three points. The Egyptians are a strong team and will come with a lot of confidence and steam, but we will also be going to the field with a lot of confidence and steam. It is going to be an interesting evening.”

Meanwhile Eguavoen’s opposite number, Egypt head coach Carlos Queiroz, is full of confidence in his side’s quality.

“It’s a great pleasure to face Nigeria in the opening game. We want to face the strongest teams in the tournament,” Queiroz said.

“Nigeria is a very strong team, but we have no objections. It’s always good to compete against football giants. We have a lot of players that are competing among themselves for a starting position, and that’s great because we came here to play seven games. Our ambition is very simple. Win all the matches.”

Star Players

In the absence of Victor Osimhen and Odion Ighalo, former youth star Taiwo Awoniyi is expected to lead the line and reproduce some of his form for German Bundesliga club Union Berlin.

Also, a lot of the attacking responsibilities will rest on returning Villarreal winger Samuel Chukwueze, who was recently described as Africa’s Lionel Messi.

Egypt meanwhile, depends heavily on Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah, recently shortlisted for the FIFA Best Player award alongside Messi and Robert Lewandowski.

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