Nigeria’s Super Eagles know they will have both legs firmly in the tournament’s Round of 16 if they scoop all three points against Sudan in their second match of Group B at the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon on Saturday evening.
Three precious points off arguably their fiercest opponents in the pool, Egypt on Tuesday have boosted the confidence and bounce of the three-time champions, and the training sessions of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday have sought to increase the tempo rather than encourage any form of complacency.
With the Falcons of Jediane and the Wild Dogs of Guinea Bissau ending their tie scoreless, the door is open for the Eagles to become the first qualifiers for the Round of 16 in Group D as they confront the Sudanese, who will be looking for a win to boost their chances of reaching that stage.
All 26 players (bar the injured defender Chidozie Awaziem) were on duty on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with Head Coach Augustine Eguavoen telling the boys clearly that they are yet to win anything, but on the way to doing great things if they keep level heads.
The vive and enthusiasm is indeed palpable. At the pre-match press conference on Friday, Eguavoen maintained his trademark calm mien and assured that his boys will go out to play positively to win on Saturday, with discipline and focus being the watchwords for them within the 90 minutes.
Eguavoen’s 51 caps for Nigeria did not include a run-out with Sudan, but he played against other North African countries, and as coach, led the Super Eagles to snatch their best-ever result in that region when they defeated the Fennecs of Algeria 5-2 in Oran, in a 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying match on 8th September 2005.
“We saw the game between Sudan and Guinea Bissau on Tuesday and what I can assure you is that we will not be under-rating them. We are taking it one match at a time and will approach this game differently from how we set up against Egypt. We will throw in our very best.”
Victory will not only assure the Eagles of a place in the Round of 16, but also brings closer the possibility of topping the group and therefore retaining the familiar surroundings of Garoua as venue.
Winger Moses Simon, who was a thorn in the flesh of the Egyptians on Tuesday, told media representatives on Friday that he has never been happier in the Nigeria camp in past two years, being able to play in his preferred position and with the players given a say in what formation they desire to set up on the terrain.