After failing to get the desired win during Friday’s home clash against the Pharaohs of Egypt in their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match, the Super Eagles are condemned to win on Tuesday as they take on their Egyptian counterparts in the crucial second leg clash.
Tuesday evening will see two among Africa’s most successful teams clash at the Borg El Arab stadium in Alexandria as they aim to qualify for the 2017 AFCON finals in Gabon.
The kick-off is 6pm Nigeria time.
The already bad situation for Nigeria got worse with the withdrawal of Chad from the race over the weekend, which means all results against the tiny West African state remained cancelled.
It also means there is no chance for any team from Group G to emerge as one of the two best losers that will qualify for the next AFCON.
While most Nigerians have their hearts in their mouths and have already taken to their calculators to begin the permutations on how the Eagles can sneak in to Gabon, new Super Eagles captain, John Obi Mikel, told football portal, Fcnaija.com in Kaduna that there was no cause for alarm as he and his teammates will deliver the needed result in Tuesday’s make-or-mar clash.
“We have to win and that is just it, we just have to go there and win now because anything short of that will not be good for us,” he said.
Mikel is even confident that if the Eagles play the way they did on Friday in the return leg on Tuesday, they will win the game.
“We played well on Friday and if we play the same way on Tuesday, I believe we will win the game,” he added.
The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna on Friday, with the Pharaohs scoring a stoppage time equalizer.
At the moment, Group G is now a three-horse race, even though some will say it’s a straight fight between the Super Eagles and the Pharaohs, with the Egyptians holding the ace.
As a matter of fact, if Nigeria fails to get the maximum points on Tuesday, the Eagles may as well forget about Gabon 2017 as they would be left with a paltry two or three (in case of a draw) points out of an obtainable nine.
A loss is worse as it gives Egypt an unassailable lead of seven points. If Nigeria eventually wins its last match against Tanzania at home, the Super Eagles can only get a maximum of five points. This has made Tuesday’s match a must-win affair.
Should Nigeria pull off a win, however, they will be the favourites to finish at the top of the standings, and will go into the final match day with a one point lead over Egypt, with Tanzania visiting the Eagles at home in September.
Nigeria’s foremost football statistician, Kunle Solaja, said the Egyptian soil has not been a good hunting ground for the Nigerian elite national team, whether as “Red Devils” or “Green Eagles”.
He pointed out that on January 1, 1960 in the quest for a place at the Rome Olympics tournament, Nigeria lost 3-0 in Cairo to what was then United Arab Republic (a short-lived political union of Egypt and Syria).
The second time Nigeria met Egypt on home soil was the final World Cup qualifying series for Argentina ‘78. The then Green Eagles fell 3-1.
Tuesday’s clash will be the third time Nigeria’s national team will face Egypt on home soil despite 19 earlier encounters across numerous competitions.
The make or mar encounter in Alexandria will also be the first time Nigeria is facing Egypt as “Super Eagles” in Egypt.
It should also be said that Egypt are currently on a 26-year unbeaten streak against Nigeria, facing off five times in that period.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the last edition of the AFCON in 2015; hence they could not defend their 2013 title won in South Africa.
It is yet to be seen if the Eagles will be able to navigate this rough patch they are at the moment and stage a return to compete at Africa’s biggest football competition.