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Super Eagles to take on the Pharaohs in Tuesday AFCON opener

The Super Eagles of Nigeria are set to take on the Pharaohs of Egypt at the Roumdé Adjia Stadium on Tuesday evening.

The two African heavyweights will be contesting for the top spot in Group D of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

The Super Eagles will be seeking their fourth title, while the Pharaohs will be looking to end their 12-year wait for the continental crown following their 2010 triumph.

Egypt remains the most successful team with seven titles under their belt as compared to Nigeria’s three titles following successes at the 1980, 1994 and 2013 editions.

Both teams are familiar foes at the AFCON, with the Pharaohs hammering the Eagles 6-3 in Nigeria’s first-ever appearance at the competition (in Ghana in 1963). The Pharaohs came from behind to tame the Eagles 3-1 in the city of Benguela (Angola) in 2010. In all other confrontations at AFCON, the Eagles have had the upper hand.

Eguavoen, who leads Nigeria from the bench on Tuesday, was involved in that cagey affair in the cold of central Tunis, but envisages that there will be nothing cagey about Tuesday’s game in the sunny atmosphere of Stade Roumdé Adjia.

“I look forward to an interesting game between two ambitious teams. As I said a couple of weeks ago, we will take it one match at a time. For now, we see the clash with Egypt and all our plan is how to earn the three points. The Egyptians are a strong team and will come with a lot of confidence and steam, but we will also be going to the field with a lot of confidence and steam. It is going to be an interesting evening.”

Former U17 star Taiwo Awoniyi is expected to lead the line and reproduce some of his potency from which German Bundesliga club Union Berlin is benefitting, with Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho and Czech Republic -based Peter Olayinka also on the line.

Skipper Ahmed Musa and Samuel Chukwueze hit target in the training match with Cameroonian top club, Cotonsport Garoua on Friday, and there are also Greece –based Henry Onyekuru and former Olympics star Sadiq Umar as possibilities in the frontline.

Injury has kept out midfield linchpin Oghenekaro Etebo, but Wilfred Ndidi will still enforce and former U17 World Cup–winning captain Kelechi Nwakali is expected to step up to the plate and show muscle in the playmaker’s role.

Defender Leon Balogun’s forced absence, through injury, means Italy-based right back Tyrone Ebuehi will probably start while Chidozie Awaziem and Kenneth Omeruo hold sway in central, and Portugal –based Zaidu Sanusi will contend with the left-back role with the versatile Olaoluwa Aina.

Egypt depends heavily on Liverpool ace Mohamed Salah, recently shortlisted for the FIFA Best Player award.

Editing by Tina Oyinsan