The Super Eagles of Nigeria
Giants Nigeria and Tunisia lock horns in Garoua for the account of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon 2021 Round of 16 this evening from 21:00hrs CAT.
The two teams are meeting for the sixth time at the AFCON, four of the previous five matches being played in knock-out games — with Nigeria are unbeaten in all five (W3 D2, excluding shoot-outs).
Tunisia’s only successful AFCON meeting with Nigeria came in 2004, when they progressed via penalties in the semi-finals after the match finished level, going onto win the competition that year.
Nigeria have won 12 of their last 14 AFCON games losing two and winning each of their last four in a row.
Tunisia made it through to the Round of 16 despite losing two of their three 2021 AFCON matches. They’ve now lost four of their last five in the competition as many defeats as in their previous 16 games at the AFCON.
Nigeria have had more different goal scorers (6) than any other team so far at the 2021 AFCON, with Kelechi Iheanacho, Moses Simon, Simon Chukwueze, Taiwo Awoniyi, William Troost-Ekong and Umar Sadiq each scoring once.
The Super Eagles were the only side to get the maximum points in the group stage. This will give Augustine Eguavoen men maximum confidence before the knockouts.
Nigeria started the campaign with a 1-0 win over record champions Egypt, followed by a 3-1 victory over Sudan, and concluded the group with a 2-0 win against Guinea Bissau.
Champions in 1980, 1994 and 2013, the group stage maximum tally and entertaining performances may give the Super Eagles the needed morale boast in their hunt for a fourth AFCON title.
Nigeria coach Augustine Eguavoen said: We topped our group with maximum points, but this is a totally different story, and the players and technical staff know this well. We are not done with what we had in the group. We will work together for the coming steps.
“We plan to go as far as possible. Being named best coach of the group stage was because of the players. They make coaches win.
“Tunisia deserved to qualify, and we respect each other. We both have the same target which is to win and qualify. We will continue to work in the same way.”
While Wilfried Ndidi, Nigeria midfielder said: “There’s no big difference between our team in 2019 and this one. We work and entertain ourselves while keeping our team spirit.
“Playing in Garoua is an advantage for us, we have many supports here and we need that. There are no preferred players in the team. The coach decides who plays and we all have the same target.”
Despite being favorites to win their group, Carthage Eagles suffered to find a place in the round of 16 which they only reached as one of the best four third placed teams.
A 4-0 win over Mauritania ensured their pass, but it came between two 1-0 defeats to Mali and Gambia respectively. And the group was highlighted by the Tunisians missing three penalties, one in each game and via three different players.
Struck by many absences, it would be a tough mission for the 2004 champions, but they will give their all to set a new start to their campaign.
Bilal Kadri, assistant coach for Tunisia said: “Our target was to reach the second round and we did that. We have a lot of confidence despite the difficulties we are facing. We know well how strong Nigeria is, but we are all ready to go far in this tournament.
“Our morale is good, and we have experienced and great players. Luck was not on our side, but this is football. We wished that we are not affected by CoVID-19, but we have to deal with the situation professionally. Everyone will give 200% of their powers.
His midfielder Aissa Laidouni said: “We all play for the team. We just focus on the competition and how to work. We don’t think of the problems. Our focus is the game, and we will do our best to win.
“We were not good enough against Gambia and were punished at the end. We took the lesson and will correct our mistakes and give our best. This is past now and our focus is what’s coming.
“We fear no one and comes the game you will find soldiers giving their all.”