AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS Battle of the Eagles as Nigeria, Tunisia Gun for Q’final Ticket

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Duro Ikhazuagbe

As Nigeria’s Super Eagles battle Carthage Eagles of Tunisia for a place in the quarter finals of the ongoing 33rd Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon this evening, the memory that will come flooding is what happened in a World Cup qualifier on November 12, 1977.

That day, Godwin Odiye scored an own goal at the National Stadium in Lagos that sent the Green Eagles packing from the 1978 World Cup hosted by Argentina.

Although between then and now, Super Eagles have earned series of victories against the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, that memory has simply refused to go away.

Fast forward to the last edition of the AFCON that held in 2019 in Egypt, it was on the back of Tunisia that Super Eagles climbed to pick the third placed bronze under now sacked German Gernot Rohr.

But in the new era under Augustine Eguavoen, Super Eagles have regained their mojo. Suddenly, the world has started to see semblance of the familiar Nigerian pattern again. In the three matches played by Nigeria in Cameroon, Super Eagles have not only recorded 100 per cent success, we are now touted as favorites for the trophy.

Will Tunisia that struggled to sneak into this stage of the competition after finishing as one of the third best teams stop Nigeria’s good run? It is doubtful.

From available records, Eguavoen appears to have the secret to unmaking Tunisia. It is not impossible for him to repeat his 2006 feat against the Carthage Eagles in Garoua, Cameroon.

Eguavoen was head coach of the Super Eagles when Nigeria upended the Carthage Eagles on penalty shootout in Port Said in Egypt 16 years ago to send the Cup holders out of the tournament at the quarter final stage.

“That was a huge, huge game and a memorable one for me. The match ended 1-1 in regulation and extra time and we had to go into penalties. We lost two of our first three kicks or something like that and then bounced back when our goalkeeper (Vincent Enyeama) stopped two of their kicks. It was a sweet victory,” Eguavoen said.

At the Al Masry Stadium on 4th February 2006, Obinna Nsofor scored for Nigeria before Karim Haggui levelled for the Cup holders. In the shootout, Joseph Yobo and Yusuf Ayila missed as Chedli and Ben Achour did for Tunisia. Taye Taiwo, Nsofor and Obafemi Martins scored, as did Namouchi, Guemamdia and Jose Clayton for Tunisia.

In sudden death, John Mikel Obi and goalkeeper Enyeama scored for Nigeria as did goalkeeper Ali Boumnijel and Hadj Massaoud for Tunisia, but after Nwankwo Kanu scored for Nigeria, Riadh Bouazizi saw his kick saved by Enyeama.

It is doubtful if Nigeria’s current “red hot” Eagles will allow the game to drag into shootouts. Not after the scintillating performance against Egypt and Sudan. Even the second string team without eight of the stars that demolished the Pharaohs in the starting XI didn’t fare badly against Guinea Bissau .

Now that talks are gaining momentum for Eguavoen to retain the job on permanent basis, it is just a question of 90 minutes tonight to see how the drama plays out. These Eagles are worth placing your bets on. Lets ice the champagne now in anticipation of celebration tonight.