By Harry Awurumibe, Editor Abuja Bureau
After a victory over the Pharaohs of Egypt, courtesy of Kelechi Iheanacho’s first half goal capped with a superlative performance by the team in the Match Day 1 of Group D last Tuesday at Stade Roumde Adjia, Garoua, Nigeria’s Super Eagles will Saturday evening at the same venue fancy a second round ticket with another win against Sudan’s Falcons of Jediane.
The Super Eagles under the tutelage of Coach Augustine Eguavoen are very much aware that they will have both legs firmly in the tournament’s Round of 16 if they pick another three points against Sudan in Saturday’s crucial second match at the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon to join the likes of host, Cameroon and Morocco who have booked their tickets already.
Interestingly, reports from Super Eagles Camp suggests that players and officials are very focused on the next match as they have not allowed the deserved victory over AFCON Seven-times winners- Egypt last Tuesday to distract them even as the three points off Egypt, arguably their fiercest opponents in the group have boosted the confidence and bounce of the AFCON Three-time Champions, and the days training sessions have sought to increase the tempo rather than encourage any form of complacency.
However, with the Sudanese and Guinea Bissau playing out a scoreless draw in their Group D Match Day 1 encounter last Tuesday, a win against Sudan will see the Super Eagles become the first qualifiers for the Round of 16 in Group D.
Luckily, all 26 players in camp except injured defender Chidozie Awaziem, trained with the team from were Wednesday to Friday, with Coach Eguavoen telling the boys clearly that they are yet to win anything, but on the way to doing great things if they keep level heads.p just as Eguavoen has assured that his boys will go out to play positively to win on Saturday, with discipline and focus being the watchwords for them within the 90 minutes.
The former Super Eagles captain and Coach has however said: “We saw the game between Sudan and Guinea Bissau on Tuesday and what I can assure you is that we will not be under-rating them. We are taking it one match at a time and will approach this game differently from how we set up against Egypt. We will throw in our very best.”
Coach Eguavoen is expected not to change a winning team, one important principle in the game of football except in extreme cases hence Nigerians will like see the same first 11 line up against the Egyptians which include a “Biblical Moses” in Simon Moses who raided the Pharaohs defence relentlessly on the day.
It means that fans will see the return of Maduka Okoye in goal who will be protected by the vastly improved defenceline featuring Captain William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo, Sanusi Zaidu, Ola Aina, and Wilfred Ndidi. Joseph Aribo, Kelechi Iheanacho, Samuel Chukwueze, Taiwo Awoniyi and Moses. Also, the team has capable bench that could even surpass what the starters in the match against Egypt did on Tuesday.
The likes of FIFA World Cup first-choice goalkeeper, Francis Odinakachukwu Uzohoh and Daniel Akpeyi, in goal in most of Nigeria’s matches at last AFCON in Egypt as well as Semi Ajayi, Kelechi Nwakali, Olisa Ndah, Chidera Ejuke are read to strp in.
In all, victory will not only assure the Super Eagles of a place in the Round of 16, but also brings closer the possibility of topping the group and therefore retaining the familiar surroundings of Garoua as venue.
The team is more than capable to grind out victory over Sudan and this is what millions of Nigerian fans home and abroad want to see. So the Super Eagles are condemned to soar higher than Sudanese Falcons.
Elsewhere, Egypt is seeking an important victory over Guinea-Bissau on Saturday in order to achieve their first three points that will revive their hopes to stay in the tournament beyond the first round. The Pharaohs lost by a lone goal to Nigeria in their Group D opening match, which witnessed a performance that angered many supporters of the Egyptian team.
Led by the English Premier League stars Mohamed Salah, Mohamed Elneny and Mahmoud Hassan “Trezeguet”, the Pharaohs will be the favorites to win on Saturday and restore hope of completing the campaign for the eighth title in their history. This even as Head Coach, Carlos Queiroz has posited that:
“Every match is important, and tomorrow we will try to improve our performance. We will face a good team and of course we respect them a lot because everyone is improving”.
“We want to play a different game, and I have confidence in my players who played last game. Mohamed Salah is a player in our team, we win or lose together, and we all share the responsibility. For me the most important is the team and I promise to see a different performance in the second match”.
But after disappointing results in Match Day 1, Guinea Bissau like Egypt will approach Match Day 2 with the intention of winning only to revive their hopes. Guinea Bissau missed a late penalty to draw 0-0 with Sudan, while Egypt lost 1-0 to Nigeria, and Saturday’s match became the last hope for reviving the journey for both of them.
However, Guinea-Bissau has never faced Egypt in the AFCON, so this is a special encounter for the team that is participating in the tournament for the third time in a row. After they missed the opportunity to beat Sudan and share the top spot, Guinea-Bissau seeks to create a historic surprise and beat record holders Egypt to enhance their chances of reaching the next round.