Eagles battle Guinea Bissau, target top spot

Super Eagles’ last Group A game of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations against Guinea Bissau is much more than just a battle for three points.
Super Eagles captain William Troost-Ekong celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot against Cote d'Ivoire in Abidjan. Photo: AFP
Super Eagles hope to celebrate another win at the ongoing AFCON…today. Photo: AFP

Super Eagles’ last Group A game of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations against Guinea Bissau is much more than just a battle for three points. It is a win that could take Nigeria to the top of the table ahead of either Equatorial Guinea or hosts, Cote d’Ivoire and ensure that the Super Eagles get a ‘softer’ opponent in the second round of the championship.

A loss could take the country down to the third position, which is still likely to hand the Eagles a second-round ticket as one of the four best third-placed teams, but it will also mean that Nigeria will meet either Morocco or Cape Verde in the round of 16.
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A draw with Guinea Bissau will place the Eagles in second position and a possible round of 16 clash with either Cameroun or Guinea, but if the Eagles top the group, they will meet any of Tunisia, South Africa (if they qualify), Algeria, Angola, Cameroon or Guinea.

Nigeria has four points from the first two games, same as Equatorial Guinea, which currently leads the group on superior goals difference. The central Africans will meet Cote d’Ivoire, which is third on three points, in their last group game today. Guinea Bissau has no point after two games.

Winning Group A does not guarantee the Super Eagles easy passage to the quarterfinals because the last time they topped their group in Cameroon two years ago, they lost to Tunisia, who finished third in their own group, at the round of 16.

After two straight losses in Abidjan, Guinea-Bissau are already out of the tournament and have only pride to fight for against the Super Eagles. They lost their opening game 0-2 to Cote d’Ivoire and were beaten 2-4 by Equatorial Guinea on matchday two.

Super Eagles midfielder, Alhassan Yusuf, who missed the game against Cote d’Ivoire, will also miss today’s match as he is not yet fit for the game, which means Coach Jose Peseiro will continue with a midfield of Alex Iwobi and Frank Onyeka, with Kelechi Iheanacho likely coming in as the attacking midfielder.

Iheanacho has not featured in this competition following the injury he copped before the championship started. But camp sources say he is now ready to enter the fray.

With Victor Osimhen still leading the attack, Peseiro is expected to continue with a forwardline also featuring Ademola Lookman and Samuel Chukwueze.
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Feelers from the Eagles’ last training session yesterday show that the backline could be unchanged from the side that stifled Cote d’Ivoire on Thursday, with Skipper William Troost-Ekong, Semi Ajayi and Calvin Bassey in a three-man central defence providing cover for goalkeeper Stanley Nwabili, while Zaidu Sanusi and Ola Aina will play as wingbacks.

Today’s game is the fourth meeting between Nigeria and Guinea Bissau and the second at the Africa Cup of Nations.

At the 2021 edition of the championship in Cameroon, the Super Eagles ran out 2-0 winners in the group stage. But at the qualifying round of the 2023 AFCON, Guinea-Bissau beat Nigeria 1-0 in Abuja, while they returned the favour in Bissau to finish top of the group.

Skipper Troost-Ekong trained alone on Saturday and could be rested for today’s game, just as Sanusi is also doubtful, although he trained with his mates yesterday.

Speaking at the pre-match conference at the Palais de la Culture in the Treichville area of Abidjan, Peseiro insisted that the Super Eagles will not take their feet off the pedal when they clash with Guinea Bissau.
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“We defeated Cote d’Ivoire, but that is already in the past. We know that in football, what counts is the moment. We must temper our confidence, and put in more work as required. We must not rest.

“We want to take the first place and for that, we must do battle. We must do what is necessary to accomplish our mission tomorrow.”

He said qualifying for the second round is just one of the steps towards achieving a fourth Africa Cup of Nations title, adding: “We have to forget that we defeated the host nation. There is a lot more work to be done. We want to be here for the long haul,” he told thenff.com after the press conference.”

On the defeat by the Djartus in Abuja, he said: “We are not thinking about revenge but we are here to top the group and they are in our sights. We must do what has to be done. Guinea Bissau have no point and will play with freedom, and that is when a team becomes dangerous.”

The match will hold at the Stade Félix Houphoüet-Boigny, Abidjan, by 6.00 p.m. Nigeria time.
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