2021 AFCON: Eagles Coach, Eguavoen Seeks To Start On Good Footing Against Egypt
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By Amaechi Agbo
Two Africa’s football giants, Nigeria and Egypt will square up in a mouth-watering clash at the ongoing 2021 Africa Cup of Nations AFCON in Cameroon today.
Both teams have 8 trophies between them with the Pharaohs of Egypt accounting for five of those with Nigeria having three.
Both changed their coaches last year and they closely follow each other in the December ranking released by FIFA with Nigeria placed 36th in the world and Egypt 45th. They are placed 5th and 6th in the continent.
These two African football heavyweights clash at Stade Roumdé Adjia in Garoua, Cameroon.
Egypt are unbeaten in each of their last 16 group matches at the Africa Cup of Nations (W12 D4). Their last defeat in the group phase dates back to the 2004 tournament (1-2 v Algeria).
Nigeria are making their 19th appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations.
They have reached the semi-finals in 14 of their last 16 Afcon participations, winning the tournament on three occasions.
This will be the ninth encounter between Nigeria and Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations – only three fixtures have been played more often in the history of the tournament (Cameroon-Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire-Egypt and Côte d’Ivoire-Ghana – all 10 times).
Nigeria hold the upper hand with three wins to Egypt’s two, although their last encounter in 2010 went to the Pharaohs (3-1 in the group phase).
This is Egypt’s 25th appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations, a record in the history of the tournament. They have won it seven times, more than any other side.
However, they have won none of the last five Afcon tournaments after winning each of the previous three (2006, 2008, 2010).
Since his debut in the competition in 2017, Mohamed Salah has been directly involved in 60% of Egypt’s goals in the Africa Cup of Nations (4 goals + 2 assists, out of a team total of 10 goals).
Many expect the game to be tricky for both sides, especially as the winner of the tie will have a huge chance of finishing top of the group and avoid a difficult match-up in the round of 16.
The clash between the two giants takes place at 5PM today at the Roumade Adja Stadium in Garoua, just three hours before Sudan take on Guinea-Bissau in the same group.
What made the matter worse for the Eagles is the absence of their forward Odion Ighalo, who was prevented by his club Al-Shabab of Saudi Arabia from joining the national team for the AFCON.
The Super Eagles have also failed to call up Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis and Napoli star Victor Osimhen after their clubs refused to let them go.
Speaking ahead of the clash, Super Eagles coach, Augustine Eguavoen talked about the absences during the press conference stating that there is no room for excuses as regards the availability of Odion Ighalo.
“It’s over now, we have to face the truth, no one cares about excuses,” Eguavoen said.
“We must respect people’s opinions, but there are rules about laying off players. It is due to the player’s desire individually first, and who must fight to play for the national team.
“We were fighting similar battles during our playing days, and we were fighting to play for the national team because it is an honor.
“Everyone has the same goal, whether it is the football federation, the fans, or the players.”
Egypt Coach, Carlos Queiroz said it was a great pleasure to face Nigeria in the opening game.
“It’s a great pleasure to face Nigeria in the opening game. We want to face the strongest teams in the tournament,” Queiroz said in his pre-match press conference.
“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,” the Portuguese coach concluded.
The game will mark the ninth clash between Egypt and Nigeria in the AFCON, with the Pharaohs coming on top three times, losing in three, and two ending in a draw.
Egypt had also opened their AFCON campaign against Nigeria twice before in 1963 and 2010, winning both games, 6-3 and 3-1 respectively.
The match will start by 5pm Nigeria time