Eagles battle Sudan for round of 16 ticket
• Moses Simon Set For Another Thrilling Evening
All the elements are in Nigeria’s favour. The Super Eagles on Tuesday bought over the locals in Garoua, Cameroun, with a masterclass display against hitherto dreaded Egypt that the new neutrals could not help but applaud Austin Eguavoen and his wards as they beat the record winners of the Africa Cup of Nations 1-0.
That victory has also drawn more Nigerians to Garoua, a city that is less than four hours from Yola by speedboat. And so, if matches were won by number of supporters in a stadium, the Super Eagles already have an edge over their North African opponents.
But football is one funny game that sometimes defies logic and the best-calculated analysis. It has shown over time that only the best prepared in every given game stand the chance of winning the match.
Going into today’s match, which begins by 5.00 p.m. Nigerian time, the Super Eagles will be bolstered by the fact that they have won five of their last six encounters with Sudan. And from recent performances, the Nigerian lads are expected to extend their dominance in Garoua before going on to face Guinea Bissau in their final group game.
Nigeria’s 1-0 defeat of Egypt put them on top of Group D with three points, while Sudan’s Jediane Falcons have one point from a goalless draw with Guinea-Bissau.
A win today will guarantee the Super Eagles passage to the round of 16, just as a draw or win for the Sudanese will put them in good stead for a round ticket.
The gloom that initially enveloped Super Eagles’ camp following the forced absence of six of their top stars, including Leon Balogun, Emmanuel Dennis, Victor Osimhen, Paul Onuachu, Odion Ighalo and Oghenekaro Etebo, has given way to optimism. The senior players in the current have stepped up top the plate, such that the Eagles have now been installed as one of the favourites for the title.
But even in his optimism, Coach Eguavoen is cautious and has told his boys that they must focused on one game at a time.
Speaking during the team’s press conference yesterday, Eguavoen said, “I am happy with the players and their ability to give their best on the pitch. I am focused on winning against Sudan at the moment. I am not thinking about anything else or how we will start our third match.
“We are completely focused on our match against Sudan. Beating Egypt was not easy, and we are looking forward to continuing our victories and qualifying for the next round.”
Moses Simon, who was Nigeria’s top star in the game against Egypt, is happy to shoulder the task of providing the ammunition for his strikers from the left flank.
Acknowledging the responsibility Eguavoen has bestowed on him, Simon said: “The way I play has changed and now the coach is giving me more attacking freedom. We hope to achieve a good result against Sudan to ensure qualification.
“Our focus is to get the victory, which is important to us. We won’t allow Sudan to spoil our fun.”
While Nigeria are looking forward to a successful outing today, Sudan also have their own ambition, which is to qualify for the next round of the competition. To do that, they must avoid defeat today.
In fact, Sudan’s coach, Burhan Tiya, believes his side have a 50-50 chance of beating the Super Eagles.
Tia, who took over the team from Frenchman, Hubert Velud, who was sacked early last month, said although his team is young, they are hungry and have a huge desire to perform, especially in ‘this big match’ against Super Eagles.
“We play with a great team with high-level stars, but we will play with a balance between defense and attack. The absence of Mohamed Abdel Rahman is impressive, but we have a number of young players waiting for an opportunity to appear,” Tiya said.
Team Captain, Mohammed Yasin, also believes they will shock Nigeria this evening.
“We have a young squad, but our target is to shock the Super Eagles despite the fact that Nigeria parades a team loaded with top stars,” he said.