Nigeria will continue its quest for a fourth continental title when the knockout stages of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) begin on Sunday. They will take on the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia in a Round of 16 tie in Garoua.
The match is one of the mouth-watering games to look out for in the knockout phase of the competition.
The Super Eagles come into the clash on the back of dominant displays that saw them win all three group games in Cameroon, a feat no team achieved. They have also managed to shake off the turbulence –sacking of long-serving coach, Gernot Rohr and the absence of key players – that marred their buildup to the tournament.
In a group containing record-holders, Egypt; Sudan, and Guinea-Bissau, the three-time African champions outclassed their foes, earning them a competition-favourite tag. Coach Austine Eguavoen’s side have scored six goals so far and conceded one. But the team have not let in any goal in open play with Sudan breaching their defense via a penalty in their second match.
The West Africans have not lost in their last six games heading into Sunday’s cracker at the Roumde Adija Stadium. Aside from the draw against Cape Verde at home in a 2022 World Cup qualifier, Nigeria have recorded wins in all matches to date.
They parade a mean defence with William Troost-Ekong in the heart. The 2013 African champions have conceded twice in their last five games.
Nine goals in five matches (plus the flurry of missed chances in Cameroon), is a testament to Nigeria’s deadly attacking force which includes in-form Simon Moses, Samuel Chukwueze, and Union Berlin’s Taiwo Awoniyi.
In fact, Nigeria’s six goals at the 2021 AFCON have come from six different players, a record that only speaks to the depth of offensive talents at Eguavoen’s disposal.
Nigeria Team News
For Sunday’s encounter, the Super Eagles are expected to stick to a familiar lineup since the competition began. Maduka Okoye, Zaidu Sanusi, Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo, and Ola Aina will most likely retain their places in defence.
Joe Aribo of Rangers and Leicester City’s midfield enforcer, Wilfred Ndidi, will man the centre. Simon Moses, Kelechi Iheanacho, Samuel Chukwueze, and Taiwo Awoniyi will also be in contention for a starting berth.
The team has no injury worries or COVID-19 issues ahead of the Tunisia match. The only outfield player that has so far not tasted action in Cameroon is Chidozie Awaziem.
Tunisia: The 2004 Champions
The Super Eagles’ opponent, have, however, had a tumultuous ride so far in the competition. Regarded as one of the powerhouses of African football, the Carthage Eagles suffered a poor start to the campaign. They lost to Mali 0-1 in their opening fixture at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium but shook off the defeat with a 4-0 demolition of minnows, Mauritania.
In their last game against The Gambia, the 2004 winners were expected to earn all three points at stake. Mondher Kebaier’s men, however, fell agonizingly to the debutants all thanks to Ablie Jallow’s 93rd-minute winner.
The victory took the Scorpions to the knockout stages, leaving Tunisia to finish as one of the third best-placed sides.
A look at the team’s form showed that they have lost three and won three of their last six matches. At the AFCON, the North Africans have lost twice and recorded a victory in one.
Tunisia Team News
The Carthage Eagles have been severely hit by COVID-19 cases. Ahead of the clash with The Gambia, seven of their players tested positive for the disease.
This included skipper, Wahbi Khazri, who netted twice in the victory over Mauritania. In his absence, Seifeddine Jaziri, was picked and has so far made two consecutive starts in the competition. The Zamalek star is expected to line up against Nigeria on Sunday.
But the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Tunisian camp has jumped from seven to 12 players. Aside from the trio of Aissa Laidouni, Ellyes Skhiri and Anis Ben Slimane, Coach Kebaier has also been ruled out of the tie.
Goalkeeper Ben Mustapha is on suspension following his red card against The Gambia while Hamza Mathlouthi will be out of action in the match due to accumulated yellow cards.
Nigeria Vs Tunisia: A Head-To-Head Record
The last 16 encounters will be Nigeria’s 20th meeting with Tunisia at the international level. Both sides claimed victory in six games while eight of them have ended in draws.
At the AFCON, Nigeria and the North Africans have clashed three times since the 2000 edition of the championship. In 2004, Tunisia beat Nigeria on penalties in the semi-final en route to lifting the trophy. But in 2006, it was time for revenge as the Super Eagles defeated them in the quarter-final.
Tunisia and Nigeria were to lock horns again at the third-place match during the last continental showpiece. An early strike from former Watford forward, Odion Ighalo, settled the scores in 2019 as Nigeria won bronze.
Goals from Mohamed Drager and Leicester City star, Kelechi Iheanacho, also saw both teams sharing the spoils in a friendly game in 2020.
Nigeria Vs Tunisia 2021 AFCON Match Time
The match between Nigeria and Tunisia at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will start at 8:00 pm (WAT).