The two African heavyweights will lock horns in the round of 16 for a chance to play in the quarter-finals of the 2021 AFCON
Nigeria have not lost a game at the Africa Cup of Nations so far, and they will look to keep it that way on Sunday when they trade tackles with the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia at the Roumde Adija Stadium.
The Super Eagles are gunning for a fourth AFCON crown, while their Tunisian counterparts are looking for a second trophy. The Carthage Eagles have not won the Africa Cup of Nations in 19 years.
It was a tale of contrasting fortunes for both sides in the group stage. While Nigeria were absolutely outstanding in Group D, winning all three of their games, the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia were abysmal, securing only three points in a group that had Mali, Mauritania, and debutants the Gambia.
The Carthage Eagles only managed to make the round of 16 as one of the best third-placed teams.
This is the second time that there will be a round of 16 stage at the AFCON, but Nigeria have reached the semifinals in 13 of their last 15 appearances at the African showpiece.
However, Tunisia have reached the semifinals of the tournament just four times in their last 15 appearances.
Nigeria and Tunisian are familiar foes. Nigeria have faced the Carthage Eagles 16 times, with the most recent being a friendly match in October 2020, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
Both sides have five wins apiece and six draws in their 16 meetings. Although, Nigeria have had the upper hand in the recent ties, beating Tunisia 1-0 in the third-place match at the 2019 AFCON.
Also, Nigeria have not lost to the Carthage Eagles in the last five meetings, but four of those results were draws.
Nigeria and Tunisia have met at the AFCON five times, and Nigeria have the upper hand, winning four times and losing just once to the, albeit on penalties.
Super Eagles coach Augustine Eguavoen has the full complement of his squad. There have been no injuries so far.
Meanwhile, coach Mondher Kebaier is not so lucky, as twelve of his players, including their biggest player and Captain Wahbi Khazri, have been ruled out due to Covid-19. Their star striker Ali Maaloul is also affected.
In their final group game against the Gambia, coach Kebaier named only seven substitutes, and the same could suffice when they face the Super Eagles.
Coach Eguavoen named eight new players in the side that beat Gambia 2-0. However, the Super Eagles coach will likely to his strongest team against the Carthage Eagles.
Nigeria likely XI: Maduka Okoye, William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo, Ola Aina, Zaidu Sanusi, Wilfred Ndidi, Joe Aribo, Kelechi Iheanacho, Moses Simon, Samuel Chukwueze, Taiwo Awoniyi.
Meanwhile, coach Kebaier has a bad selection headache, as he would have to tweak his team without his star players. Manchester United 19-year-old Hannibal Mejbri could replace Hamza Rafia in the starting lineup.
Tunisia XI: Bechir Ben Said, Ali Abdi, Montassar Talbi, Bilel Ifa, Hamza Mathlouthi, Aisa Laidouni, Ellyes Skhiri, Anis Slimane, Hannibal Mejbri, Seifeddine Jaziri, Saif-Eddine Khaoui.
The odds are stacked against Tunisia, not just because Nigeria are in better form and have more quality. The Tunisians are also short-staffed.
Nigeria have been brilliant in defence, but they have not been able to put away their chances. Meanwhile, the Tunisians have a very blunt attack and have struggled to create chances.
Close margins in the past have defined the fixture, and due to both sides’ profligate attacks, a 1-0 victory for Nigeria should suffice.