Nigeria and Egypt will have a heavyweight bout in Group D at the Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations 2021 when they meet at the Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua on Tuesday.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria are three-time Afcon champions (most recently in 2013) and finished third in the last tournament in 2019.
Another serious challenge for the title will be expected from the West African powerhouses, even though they come into the Afcon with an interim coach in the shape of Augustine Eguavoen (who replaced long-time manager Gernot Rohr at the back end of 2021).
Nonetheless, the Super Eagles have the quality and experience to challenge for the title in Cameroon, with Eguavoen determined to make the most of his time in charge (he will be replaced by new permanent appointment Jose Peseiro after the tournament).
“We have to face reality, nobody cares to hear excuses,” said Eguavoen. “We have to tell the players where we are now and where we want to be at the end of Afcon. The federation has a goal, the country has a goal, as players and individuals we also have goals.”
Egypt are the Afcon’s most successful nation, with a record seven titles to their name (the most recent in 2010). They were runners-up as recently as 2017, while their run as hosts in the last tournament in 2019 ended in disappointment with a round of 16 exit.
This time around the Pharaohs are hopeful that coach Carlos Queiroz can harness the undoubted quality at their disposal – including arguably the best player in the world this season in Mohamed Salah – as they chase an eighth continental crown.
“I believe that these 25 players will be able to build a strong and cohesive team that plays good football and is able to win and fight for it and has a strong mentality,” said Egypt’s Portuguese coach. “This tournament is very strong. We need players who are ready to perform whenever we need them.”
In head-to-head stats, Nigeria and Egypt have met in 18 matches across all competitions since 1960, with the Super Eagles claiming eight wins compared to five for the Pharaohs, while five games have been drawn.
The teams last met in an international friendly in March 2019 in Asaba, with Nigeria claiming a 1-0 home win thanks to an early goal from Paul Onuachu.