The two African giants will clash toe-to-toe in the Group D opener of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations at the Roumdé Adjia Stadium
On Tuesday, Nigeria will begin their 2021 Afcon campaign with a clash against seven-time Afcon kings Egypt. The two teams have been drawn against each other alongside Sudan and Guinea-Bissau in Group D.
And for an opening group match, it does not get bigger than the clash between two African heavyweights. Both sides are expected to make it out of the group, but tomorrow’s result could determine who finishes top.
Nigeria and Egypt are no strangers to each other in Africa’s biggest competitions, having faced each other eight times.
The Super Eagles have the advantage with four wins, including one penalty shootout. The Pharaohs have won on two occasions, with two games ending in a draw.
However, despite having a better head to head record, Nigeria will be looking for their first competitive win over Egypt in 29 years.
The last time the Super Eagles beat the Pharaohs in a competitive match was at the 1990 AFCON. Since then, the three-time African champions have lost two times in competitive games against their North African rivals and drew two times.
Nigeria have not had the best of preparations, with a couple of their players withdrawing from the squad. The Super Eagles will be without their in-form strikers Victor Osimhen and Emmanuel Dennis due to an injury and Watford’s refusal to release the latter.
They will also be without 2019 AFCON top scorer Odion Ighalo. Nonetheless, interim boss, Austin Eguavoen can still count on the likes of Chidera Ejuke, Samuel Chukwueze, Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi.
Meanwhile, the Pharaohs do not have the same problem and will be confident in their chances. Egypt’s hopes rest heavily on the performance of Mohamed Salah, who is arguably the best player in the world right now.
The 29-year-old attacker has been brilliant for his club Liverpool this season. Egypt will hope Salah can bring his club form into AFCON.
Salah can also rely on supporting casts like Mohamed Eleny and Mahmoud Trezeguet.
Nigeria’s possible Xi: Okoye, Aina, Ekong, Awaziem, Sanusi, Ndidi, Aribo, Iheanacho, Simon, Chukwueze, Musa.
Prediction: Nigeria are ranked higher in the FIFA rankings, but they go into the game as the slight underdogs due to their lack of ideal preparation.
Salah’s performance will be key for Egypt, but the winger does not have the same supporting cast he has at Liverpool.
Nonetheless, it will likely be a long night for Nigeria’s defenders.
On paper, the Super Eagles have the better team, which could help them secure a draw.