The Super Eagles face-off with the Carthage Eagles on Friday at the Stade Régional de Nyamirambo in Kigali has three precious points on offer. A win for the Nigerian team will ensure a safe passage into the quarter finals and probably a knock-out effect on the Tunisian team while a win for the Tunisians will ensure that match day three matches hold greater significances.
But looking closely at the Eagles under Sunday Oliseh shows that the Nigerian team would win Friday’s contest if they score more than one goal.
In the last five matches, the Eagles have conceded just once and scored two or more goals on three occasions.
And beyond the obvious defensive strength under Oliseh, the two teams are named Eagles, one Super, the other Carthage but on head-to-head stats, the Tunisians have more wins over their Nigerian counterparts.
In the FIFA ranking, the North Africans are also superior [40 to 66] and they are also better ranked by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) according to domestic leagues – the Tunisian league is ranked first in Africa, while the NPFL, is ranked 12th.
Football is not Mathematics so we will also look at the players that the teams are likely to parade and engage them in one-on-one battle scenarios.
Three head-to-head battles that could define the match:
Paul Onobi vs. Mohamed Ali Monser
Against Niger, the Sunshine Stars midfielder was a bit cagey – maybe because of first match anxiety and in Monser, he has a tricky customer, who would try to pull the strings for the Tunisian side. The battle for the points could just be won by the team that gains a greater foothold on the midfield. Onobi is sturdy and rangy while Monser is slick and wiry. A good contest is surely in the offing.
Stephen Eze vs. Ahmed Akaichi
Eze is big but a quite mobile Akaichi will be a big test. With two goals already in the tournament, Akaichi showed against Guinea that he has pace and deft finishing. The Nigerian defender would have to be in constant communication with whoever is his partner in central defence to ensure they know where the Tunisian forward is at all times.
Chinedu Chikatara vs. Karim Aouadhi
Chikatara became the second player to score a hat-trick in CHAN history last Monday and will want to prove that the performance was not a fluke. Against Aouadhi, he will come against an experienced defender with some European club experience. Aouadhi will be wary of the speed of the Nigerian forward, so expect the 27-year old Esperance player to try rough-handling tactics to get Chikatara off his rhythm.
Another stat that may also prove important or decisive on Friday could be the average ages of the teams. Nigeria parades a squad averagely aged 22.3 while the Tunisians are 24.6. Oliseh also has 13 players aged under 21, and that inexperience showed forth in the first half performance against Niger – against Tunisia, they cannot afford to start slowly and cautiously.
Nigeria’s last 5 matches
17/10/15 ANC Nigeria 2 – 0 Burkina Faso
25/10/15 ANC Burkina Faso 0 – 0 Nigeria
13/11/15 WQA Swaziland 0 – 0 Nigeria
17/11/15 WQA Nigeria 2 – 0 Swaziland
18/01/16 ANC Nigeria 4 – 1 Niger
Tunisia’s last 5 matches
18/10/15 ANC Tunisia 1 – 0 Libya
24/10/15 ANC Tunisia 2 – 3 Morocco
13/11/15 WQA Mauritania 1 – 2 Tunisia
17/11/15 WQA Tunisia 2 – 1 Mauritania
18/01/16 ANC Tunisia 2 – 2 Guinea