Nigeria’s Super Eagles on Monday night successfully navigated their way past the group stage of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, securing a spot in the knockout round.
The three-time winners had it rough against Guinea-Bissau, but they eventually sealed a 1-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau in Abidjan to not only maintain an undefeated record in the group stage but also solidify their status as Group A runners-up.
With the final positions in Group A now decided, the stage is set for a fascinating last-16 encounter for Nigeria at the AFCON.
According to the CAF schedule, Nigeria’s opponent in the knockout stage will be the runners-up from Group C.
Group C, consisting of Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea, and Gambia, is yet to complete their group stage fixtures.
As of the present moment, Senegal lead Group C with an impressive six points from two games.
The defending champions have been the best team at the tournament, and they have displayed their dominance with a 3-0 victory over Gambia and a 3-1 triumph against Cameroon.
Their final group match against Guinea, however, holds significant implications for the knockout stage draw.
Guinea, currently sitting in second place with four points, stands a chance to surpass Senegal if they secure a victory in their clash on Tuesday.
A win for Guinea would propel them to the top of the group. In this scenario, Senegal would drop to second place, setting the stage for a showdown with Nigeria in the knockout stage.
However, a draw or a Senegal win would see the Teranga Lions maintain their position at the summit, ensuring Guinea finish second and become Nigeria’s last-16 adversary.
Cameroon, on the other hand, face an uphill battle with just one point from two games. To secure a spot in the next round, they must defeat Gambia and hope for favourable results elsewhere.
A significant victory for Cameroon, combined with a massive win for Senegal over Guinea, could see the Indomitable Lions leapfrog the Guineans into second place.
A Cameroon-Nigeria faceoff is one of the most intriguing rivalries at the AFCON, with the Lions beating the Super Eagles to three previous titles.
Gambia, currently at the bottom of Group C with zero points, remain a potential spoiler.
While they cannot advance to the second spot, a substantial win against Cameroon could see them qualify among the best losers.
Guinea, though, look like the safe bet to face Nigeria in the last-16.
Interestingly, Guinea secured a straightforward 2-0 friendly victory over Nigeria a few days before the start of the 2023 AFCON, and the Super Eagles will be wary of Guinea’s capability to repeat their performance if the two teams meet again.
In conclusion, as the Group C drama unfolds, the identity of Nigeria’s last-16 opponent remains uncertain.
The looming fixtures between Senegal, Guinea, and Cameroon will undoubtedly shape the course of the knockout stage, adding an extra layer of anticipation to the AFCON 2023 journey for the Super Eagles.