Super Eagles’ biggest challenge against Sudan is not the Falcons
The three-time continental champions are the massive favourites over the Sudanese, but shocks in football are made for such times
Nearly every close watcher of African football, except die-hard Sudanese fans, expects the Super Eagles to defeat the Falcons today when they square up at the Roumde Adjia Stadium in a Group D matchday two contest of the ongoing 2021 Nations Cup.
Both teams come into the match on the back of contrasting performances in their first group matches.
The Super Eagles dominated a Mohamed Salah-inspired Egypt to secure a famous 1-0 win. The Falcons, on the other hand, were lucky to claim a 0-0 draw against Guinea-Bissau, with the Djurtus missing a late penalty.
A 1970 Afcon champion, Sudan’s glory days are long gone and, with a squad predominantly made up of home-based players, the CECAFA representatives may have earned their only point at this tourney.
The Super Eagles, however, boast one of the most valuable squads at the Afcon and an attack that could become fearsome as the day goes by.
36th-ranked Nigeria sit some 89 places above the Falcons on the FIFA ranking and could record their second Nations Cup win over their opponents, who have managed just one win in their last 14 Afcon games (D6 L7), dating back to the 1972 edition.
If things go according to plan for the Eagles, the Falcons of Jediane could be on the receiving end of a heavy defeat.
The Burhan Tia-guided side will put up a spirited fight in Garoua, but the three-time continental kings could be their own worst enemies.
More often than once, when they were expected to fly past their opponents with ease, the 2013 champions have faltered.
The Super Eagles failed the complacency test as recently as October when they lost at home to the lowly Central African Republic in a World Cup qualifying match.
It will take forever to forget that nightmarish 4-4 draw the Super Eagles managed against Sierra Leone during the qualifiers for this championship just over a year ago.
Nigeria led 4-0 after just 30 minutes but somehow took their foot off the gas and watched as their opponents scored four times to leave the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City with a share of the points.
Also, at the group stage of the 2019 Afcon in Egypt, debutants Madagascar stunned Nigeria 2-0 to record one of the most famous results at the tournament.
It matters little that the Eagles had already qualified for the knockout rounds courtesy of straight wins in their opening two matches.
But these games came when Gernot Rohr was still in charge of the Eagles.
The German tactician has since been replaced temporarily by former international Augustine Eguavoen. The 1994 Afcon winner is alert to the dangers of underrating the Sudanese.
“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,” the 51-cap international told NFF’s official website.
“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.”
Nigeria’s first encounter with Sudan was at the 1963 Afcon, where the Falcons strolled to a 4-0 win. The Eagles got their pound of flesh at the 1976 edition with a 1-0 win, making Saturday’s clash the first between the two in 46 years.
A win for Nigeria, though, will seal their passage to the knockout round of Cameroon 2021.
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