The Super Eagles go into today’s final Group D match against Guinea Bissau as clear favourites. The Nigerian team have been on fire since the commencement of the tournament.
The Austin Eguavoen tutored team defeated 7-time African champions, the Pharaohs of Egypt 1-0 in the opening group game and downed the Falcons of Sudan 3-1 in the second match, which ensured their qualification for the round of 16 as group leaders. Their early forays have made today’s match inconsequential.
But from Eguavoen’s body language, the Eagles are not letting off as they want to consolidate their supreme position as true group leaders. One good thing going for the Nigerian team is the unity and above all, the new spirit that has enveloped their camp; that of winning the trophy, like their predecessors did in South Africa 9 years ago.
And they want to achieve it with aplomb. William Troost-Ekong, the assistant captain, representing the views of his teammates said winning the AFCON trophy was uppermost on their minds. The Watford defender said they are prepared to face any team.
Today against Guinea Bissau, the Eagles will be meeting a wounded team that is hungry for success. Still angered by their controversial loss to Egypt in their last match, the Guineans want to make a statement before their departure, even if they are to go home after today’s encounter. But the motivation for them is that they still have a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages if they can pull out a win against the Super Eagles.
Emiliano Tate, the assistant head coach led the team in their match against Egypt but today, Baciro Cande, their head coach will be in the dugout as he missed the last match against Egypt because he was in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19. He would deploy his best legs against the rampaging Nigerians. Guinea Bissau has shown grit, aggression and good positional football.. They come at you with purpose and are untiring.
If the Super Eagles want to finish the first round unblemished, they must maintain the momentum. Eguavoen must therefore not make a massive overhaul of his team. It is likely he would be tempted to make changes in the Eagles lineup. The likes of Sadiq Umar, Henry Onyekuru, Chidera Ejuke, Tyrone Ebuehi among many others that have not had to play time will be deployed to overrun their Guinean aggressors.
It has been observed that the Eagles are a one-half team. Against Egypt, the Nigerians dropped their game in the second half. It was also noticeable against Sudan, which resulted in the unnecessary penalty that gave the North Africans their solitary goal.