By; AYO OJEDOKUN, Lagos
Nigeria’s manager, Augustine Eguavoen says he countenances a tough duel between his Super Eagles and the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia in Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16 encounter in Garoua.
Tunisia’s campaign has been somewhat ravaged by positive COVID tests and the team only qualified for the knockout stage as one of the best losers, finishing in third place behind The Gambia and Mali, and winning only one of their three matches while losing the other two.
“I expect a very tough game against the Tunisians. Our group will not be lulled into any sense of superiority over any team here until we do the business on the field. Tunisia is a big name in African football and we must acknowledge that, despite the manner in which they reached this stage.
“We have watched some of their games and from what we know of them in the distant past and in lucid memory, they are never a team to take for granted.”
Eguavoen’s 51 caps for Nigeria did not include an encounter with Tunisia, but he was head coach of the Super Eagles when Nigeria upended the Carthage Eagles on penalty shootout in Port Said in Egypt 16 years ago to send the Cup holders out of the tournament at the quarter final stage.
“That was a huge, huge game and a memorable one for me. The match ended 1-1 in regulation and extra time and we had to go into penalties. We lost two of our first three kicks or something like that and then bounced back when our goalkeeper (Vincent Enyeama) stopped two of their kicks. It was a sweet victory,” Eguavoen said.
At the Al Masry Stadium on 4th February 2006, Obinna Nsofor scored for Nigeria before Karim Haggui levelled for the Cup holders. In the shootout, Joseph Yobo and Yusuf Ayila missed as Chedli and Ben Achour did for Tunisia. Taye Taiwo, Nsofor and Obafemi Martins scored, as did Namouchi, Guemamdia and Jose Clayton for Tunisia. In sudden death, John Mikel Obi and goalkeeper Enyeama scored for Nigeria as did goalkeeper Ali Boumnijel and Hadj Massaoud for Tunisia, but after Nwankwo Kanu scored for Nigeria, Riadh Bouazizi saw his kick saved by Enyeama.
In dim and distant memory, Tunisia reached the final round of the 1978 FIFA World Cup African series after an own goal by Godwin Odiye in Lagos on 12th November 1977 eliminated Nigeria, but the following year, Nigeria earned the bronze medals of the 11th AFCON when Tunisia abandoned the match in the 42nd minute following an equalizer by Baba Otu Mohammed. Nigera were awarded the match 2-0.
In 1980, both countries tied 2-2 on aggregate in a Spain 82 World Cup qualifying fixture, with Nigeria proceeding after penalty shootout. In 1985, Tunisia edged their 1986 World Cup qualifying fixture 2-1 on aggregate – a lone goal by Okey Isima cancelled out with a two-goal blitz in the first 15 minutes of the return inside the Stade El Menzah in Tunis.
In recent and decent memory, Nigeria edged their opening encounter of the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations 4-2 in Lagos, with Jay Jay Okocha and Victor Ikpebe earning a brace each. In 2009, a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying fixture ended 0-0 and 2-2 in Tunis and Abuja, and in 2019 Nigeria won the bronze medals of the 32nd AFCON 1-0 in Cairo at the expense of the Carthage Eagles.
Their most recent encounter was a friendly game in Austria in October 2020, which ended 1-1 with Nigeria’s goal scored by Kelechi Iheanacho.
On Sunday at the Stade Roumdé Adjia, Nigeria will file out with three wins in three from their group phase campaign. The Tunisians were only able to defeat Mauritania while losing to Mali and The Gambia. Both countries are led by indigenous coaches. Mondher Kebaier will sit on the Tunisians’ bench.
The match will be Eguavoen’s 16th for Nigeria across three stints, during which he has walked off the pitch victorious in 13 of the previous 15, with only two narrow defeats. He is also the only man to have coached Nigeria to win all three group phase matches at the AFCON, achieving this in both his AFCON odysseys in 2006 and 2022.
The usual in-tournament extra incentives – a practice entrenched over the decades – have started flowing in for the Eagles. Billionaire businessman Femi Otedola has dedicated the naira equivalent of $250,000 for the team to win the trophy, just as airline owner Allen Onyema has promised N50million if the team marches to the final on 6th February and is triumphant.
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele says the CACOVID (a coalition of private sector companies set up to fight COVID pandemic in Nigeria) will shell out the sum of $120,000 for the six goals already scored by the Eagles in Cameroon, and $50,000 (naira equivalent) for every goal in the Round of 16 clash with Tunisia.
Airline owner Onyema had earlier promised the team the sum of N10million for every goal.
Costa Rica 2022: Falconets confident as they battle Cameroon in Douala
Nigeria’s U20 girls, Falconets are buoyed by the performance of the Super Eagles at the ongoing 33rd Africa Cup of Nations, and say they are motivated for a great result when they take on their Cameroonian counterparts in a FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup qualifying match in Douala on Saturday.
Coach Chris Danjuma watched his girls limber up briefly to shake off jet lag following their arrival in Douala on Thursday, and have been scheduled for a feel of the match venue – Stade Japoma de Douala – on Friday evening.
“We are highly motivated by the performance of the Super Eagles so far at the AFCON here in Cameroon. It is a huge tonic for us to go all out and overwhelm our opponents,” Danjuma said.
Prolific scorers Mercy Idoko, Flourish Sebastine and Esther Onyenezide are among Danjuma’s 23-woman army for Saturday’s encounter with the Young Lionesses. It is the penultimate round of the African qualifying series for the tournament scheduled for Costa Rica in the month of August.
NFF condoles 3SC over death of Rasheed Balogun
The Nigeria Football Federation has commiserated with the Management and Players of Shooting Stars Sports Club of Ibadan over the death of the club’s General Manager, Mr Rasheed Balogun.
Balogun, a highly experienced and respected club administrator, died in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital on Thursday night.
General Secretary of the NFF, Dr Mohammed Sanusi said: “It is with heavy hearts that we have learned of the passing on of Rasheed Balogun, someone we have known over the years as an energetic, dedicated and charismatic club administrator. He was passionate about the game and was a frontline actor in the country’s domestic game for several decades. His death at this time is heartbreaking.
“On behalf of the entire Nigeria Football family, we pray for the repose of his soul and that God will grant those he has left behind, including the 3SC family, the fortitude to bear the big loss.”