2021 AFCON: It’s Clash of Titans as Nigeria, Egypt Meet in Garoua

By Harry Awurumibe, Editor-in-Chief, Abuja

Super Eagles. ..Ready for Egypt test

There will be no hiding place for the players of Nigeria’s Super Eagles and their opponents, the Egyptian senior football team tagged the Pharaohs, when both countries clash Tuesday at the Stade Roumdé Adjia, Garoua from 5 pm local time.

The encounter which is  potentially the pick of the group’s battles, will produce alot of fireworks if the quality of players in both teams is anything to rely upon just as Nigeria and Egypt are in the top ten bracket in African football rankings.
While Nigeria is currently ranked Africa’s Number Five team and No.36 in the latest FIFA World Rankings, Egypt is   Number Six in Africa and No.45  in the World. On paper, the above rankings mean that Nigeria has the bragging rights going into Tuesday’s clash against Egypt but football game is like crackers biscuit which no one can predict where it will break of after a bite.
More so, any football match between Nigeria and Egypt in particular and North African countries are always keenly contested and Tuesday’s encounter in Garoua will not be any different. Aside the late arrivals and withdrawal of some key Super Eagles players, the Nigerian team is a hard nut to crack at  anytime hence the 27 players in the team’s camp in Garoua have all it takes to deliver at 2021 AFCON in  Cameroon.
Unfortunately, Nigeria will be  without top marksmen in Napoli’s goal-poacher, Victor Osimhen due to injury and 2019 AFCON top scorer, Odion Ighalo who was held back by his Saudi Arabia club like Emmanuel Dennis of Watford in this crucial match against Egypt.
However, their  absences created opportunities for a number of young guns to make hay at Africa’s grand houseparty even as former U-17 star, Taiwo Awoniyi is expected to lead the line and reproduce some of his potency from which German Bundesliga club Union Berlin is benefitting, with Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho and Czech Republic -based Peter Olayinka also on the line.
Also, Skipper Ahmed Musa and Samuel Chukwueze who hit target in the training match with Cameroonian top club, Cotonsport Garoua last Friday; Greece-based, Henry Onyekuru and former Olympics star Sadiq Umar are  possibilities in the front line.
It is instructive that Super Eagles begin their campaign with Pharaohs of Egypt in a winning note, a result Caretaker Coach Augustine Eguavoen and his  wards will fancy so much if the coach will get his tactics right on the day. From goalkeeping department through the defence, midfield and attack, where Super Eagles have more than enough weapons to shoot down their opponents, Eguavoen will be having sleepless nights to pick the player to lead the Super Eagles line.
Nigeria had only won the AFCON trophy three times with first glory on home soil in 1980, won in Tunisia in 1994 and overturned bookmakers’ predictions to triumph in South Africa nine years ago.
But Egypt which will not be an easy meat if her intimidating credentials as a  seven-time AFCON  Champions is anything to rely upon are allowed room to operate just as the Egyptians are very dangerous if given a chance to wreck havoc by opponents.
Egypt which started international football in 1920s, many years before Nigeria even  became independent won  the first two editions of Africa’s flagship football competition, in 1957 and 1959, and then won on home soil in 1986 and in Burkina Faso 12 years later, before a hat-trick of consecutive titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Stade Roumdé Adjia, Garoua…The Battle Ground

Both countries are not unfamiliar to themselves at the AFCON, with the Pharaohs and Super Eagles meetings since 1963 till date favouring Egypt at sometime and Nigeria winning at other times, including Nigeria’s victory over Egypt in 1994 in Tunisia  when Coach was a player.

Egypt Head Coach Carlos Quieroz will rely on English Premier League club, Liverpool’s “goal-machine” Mohamed Salah to carry the hope of all Egyptians in Cameroon, although he has other players who can cause Nigeria a lot of problems today.
Depending on the tactical formation the Egyptian coach wants to adopt on the day, all or one of  the three Mohameds will lead the Pharaohs’ attack. They are  Mostafa Mohamed (Galatasaray, Turkey) and  Mohamed Sherif (Al Ahly, Egypt).
Super Eagles defenders may have to watch out for attacking midfielders: Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal, England), Omar Marmoush (VfB Stuttgart, Germany) and Mahmoud Hassan Trezeguet (Aston Villa, England).
Should Nigeria grind out victory  on Tuesday evening it will provide confidence boost for the Super Eagles ahead of the other Group D ties against Sudan (January 15) and Guinea Bissau (January 19).
**Egypt Probable Lineup vs Nigeria*
Goalkeeper: Mohamed El-Shennawy (Al Ahly, Egypt)
Defenders: Ahmed Fatouh, Mahmoud Alaa, (all Zamalek, Egypt), Ayman Ashraf ( Al Ahly),
Ahmed Hegazi (Ittihad Jeddah, Saudi Arabia).
Midfielders: Hamdi Fathi, (Al Ahly, Egypt), Ahmed Sayed Zizo (Zamalek, Egypt),  Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal, England),  Mahmoud Hassan Trezeguet (Aston Villa, England).
Forwards: Mohamed Sherif (Al Ahly, Egypt), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, England).

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