The prestigious African Cup of Nations is upon us. This is the 33rd edition of this biennal competition been hosted by Cameroon albeit belatedly– the last edition held in 2019 and Covid worries postponed the 2021 edition to this year.
It has been a refreshingly surprising tournament for Nigerian team,called the Super Eagles, so far in the current stage– group stage. Nigeria surprised the world by trumping Egypt one nil. The context here is a Nigerian team that only just employed a caretaker coach in Augustine Eguavoen only few weeks before the competition, so his first competitive match was against Egypt. An Egypt coached by the respected former Madrid coach in Carlos Queiroz, and the team he has been building for years; this includes the English Premier League super star, Mohammed Salah and Arsenal's Mohammed Elneny. It was indeed a shock defeat for Egypt. Nigeria went ahead and spanked Sudan 3–1 in their next match to seal their qualification for the next round(round of 16).
Today Nigeria plays their last group match against Guinea-Bissau. They have rightfully rested many of their starting eleven. Here is a list of the starting eleven:
This squad above is not,so far away from the first team in terms of quality and should beat Guinea comfortably.
Uzoho: He's the goalkeeper. With Guinea Bissau expected to throw the kitchen sink at the Super Eagles, it will be an excellent opportunity to see Uzoho’s net-minding credentials and benchmark it against that of Okoye, the usual goalkeeper.
Ajayi: A centre back. Having lost his place to Akpoguma in the tail end of Rohr’s reign, Ajayi now has the chance to redeem himself with a convincing and compelling performance.
Ebuehi: The right back. He needs to bring his Serie A and Super Eagles training sessions form to fore today to attempt to knock Excellent Aina into a cocked hat. He's expected to do well.
Collins: The left back. With so much mystery shrouding his initial appearance in camp, nothing short of ‘A1’ deliveries and deft defending from him will satisfy Super Eagles fans.
Nwakali: A midfielder. Finally, his much awaited start in Super Eagles colours (in a meaningful match) is here. He will have to replicate his 2018 performance against Atletico Madrid for many fans to treat him better than a grain of salt. So much is riding on Nwakali’s display today and he is such a player to deliver the goods when in his countries colours.
Iwobi: Plays at right wing today. Having effectively lost his midfield slot to compatriot Aribo in this tournament, Iwobi will be keen to wrestle the right wing starting position off underwhelming Chukwueze.
Sadiq Umar: The striker. It is last chance saloon for the Almeria man in this tournament. A tepid performance today may just see him gather dust on the Super Eagles benches for the remainder of the tournament (and perhaps adversely affect his long term Super Eagles status).
Ejuke: The left winger. This is the position he is useful to eventhough he is right footed. Good to see him fielded there today. He is a dashing winger with so much skill.
On the coach Eguavoen, eventhough it might seem a balsy move to introduce a whole 8 players in a historically significant potential record setting encounter for him as a Nigeria coach, this will nonetheless reveal whether there is strength in-depth in the Super Eagles.