Tunisia were essentially the last team to make it into the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16.
In fact, they barely made it.
The Carthage Eagles conceded a last-minute winner against the Gambia in their final Group F. It saw them finish third.
They will now face Nigeria for a place in the quarter-final.
The Super Eagles, on the other hand, were the outstanding team of the group stages. The three-time champions finished with the maximum nine points and have been installed as new favourites to win the trophy.
In a tournament where Ghana and defending champions Algeria have been sent packing, Nigeria and host Cameroon seem to be the name on everyone’s lips.
But football is decided on the pitch.
It might look like a straightforward call – Nigeria to win. But this AFCON has thrown up its fair share of surprises. So, Augustine Eguavoen has to be wary.
Eguavoen, in a space of two weeks, has set up the Eagles to be bright in attack and tight at the back. They have scored six goals and conceded one. And they have proved too much for their opponents so far.
Tunisia only managed one win against whipping boys Mauritania, where they scored all their four goals – and lost twice.
If there is ever a time to up your game, it is when the knockout stages of competition begin.
“That’s going to be a nostalgic clash, bringing back memories of 2004 and 2006. But the Super Eagles will be favourites, because of how they’ve started the tournament,” Wale Adigun, Head of Sports at Lasgidi FM 90.1, tells DAILY POST.
“Eguavoen is experienced enough to know that the knockout rounds are a different ball game and we need to be careful.”
Sulaimon ‘Pooja’ Adebayo, who works for Top Radio 90.9FM but is in Cameroon capturing images from the tournament, agrees with Adigun.
“Based on the three games from both teams, I should have said it will be a walk in the park for Nigeria. But North African teams always raise their games against us.
“And there is a psychological battle with Eguaveon because he defeated them via penalties in 2006.
“It will be a tough game no doubt but if we continue with this momentum, that’s a victory for Nigeria,” Adebayo said.
Adigun, however, also warned the Nigerian team to be wary of Wahbi Khazri, who could be a potential gamechanger.
“Khazri might likely return for Tunisia, which means that the backline has to be aware of the threats he brings.
“Asides from that I don’t see how the Eagles of Carthage can hurt us,” he added.
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