AFCON 2021

PREVIEW: Eagles face tough test against the Pharaohs

The Super Eagles of Nigeria will begin their campaign at the 2021 African Cup of Nations tomorrow in the Northern Cameroonian city of Garoua. A tough match-up with record title winners of the tournament Egypt is set before them for their opener.

The Nigerian team, who are themselves three-time champions of the competition, will be looking to stop a dangerously in-form Mohamed Salah and nick a win so as to assert early dominance in Group D of the AFCON.

Incidentally, the Pharaohs were the last team to inflict defeat on the Eagles at an opening game at AFCON, and that was back in the 2010 edition (a tournament the North Africans eventually won). Austin Eguavoen’s men will be hoping to avoid a reoccurrence on Tuesday.

The Eagles have had their team considerably weakened in the last few weeks following withdrawals of top stars like Victor Osimhen, Emmanuel Dennis, Leon Balogun and winner of the Golden Boot in the last edition Odion Ighalo owing to either injuries or club issues.

Yet interim coach of the Nigerian team Eguavoen is confident the squad available can reach great heights in Cameroon still, as long as they take it ’game by game’.

“One thing I can guarantee you is the boys are ready,” Eguavoen stated in Monday’s pre-match presser.

“From every first minute, we will contest for the ball and try to win every game. But we will take it game after game.”

The crunch encounter will be staged at the Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua, Cameroon tomorrow, with kick-off slated for 5pm.

Team News

Against Egypt, the Eagles could have to do without the services of left-back Jamilu Collins who only arrived camp this evening ahead the final training.

Odion Ighalo, who made the revised final squad, will be unavailable for the competition as his club side Al Shabab have rightfully refused to release the player.

His absence makes the total number of players available for Eguavoen to be 27, as against the maximum 28-man squad that is allowed in this edition.

Head to Head

The Eagles have played Egypt eight times at AFCON, winning three, losing another three, and recording stalemates in two.

Notably the last time both sides faced off was in a friendly encounter in Asaba two years ago. Paul Onuachu, who unfortunately misses this AFCON squad because of injury, scored what stands as the the fastest goal in Nigeria’s football history (under 8 seconds) to gift Nigeria a 1-0 win in the exhibition game.

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