Nigeria will look to continue their impressive march in the Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations when they face Tunisia in a Round of 16 clash at the Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua on the evening of Sunday.
Kick-off is at 9pm CAT (SA, GMT+2).
Nigeria were the standout team of the first round, winning all three matches in Group D, making them the only team to boast a perfect record in this Afcon.
The Super Eagles opened with a 1-0 defeat of seven-time champions Egypt, and followed it up with emphatic triumphs over Sudan (3-1) and Guinea-Bissau (2-0).
Interim coach Augustine Eguavoen has inculcated a togetherness and cohesion not seen in the Nigerian national team for several years, with the veteran tactician insisting that this group of players is earning respect across the continent.
“It is the same set of players who performed brilliantly well prior to the Afcon, the last one in Egypt and also a year or couple later,” said Eguavoen.
“All of a sudden, things didn’t go well as they were supposed to for some reason and that’s why people were trying to write Nigeria off.”
He added, “Now, people are thinking and starting to respect Nigeria. We will always respect our opponents, we will play them with full strength and we will play them the way we play with anybody.”
Tunisia, by contrast, struggled to get through Group F, ending in third place behind Mali and Gambia (both of whom defeated the North African side), with only a big 4-0 win over Mauritania sparing them an early exit from the competition.
Yet the Carthage Eagles should not be underestimated, with their conservative style under coach Mondher Kebaier likely to be suited to the tense, do-or-die nature of knockout football.
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And Tunisia will feel they deserved a slice of luck at this Afcon, having been the victim of Janny Sikazwe’s diabolical refereeing for the loss to Mali, as well as losing a raft of players to Covid-19 for the defeat against Gambia.
“I keep complete confidence in my players despite the difficulty of the situation,” said Kebaier.
In head-to-head stats, Nigeria and Tunisia have met in 20 matches across all competitions since their first clash back in 1961. Both the Super Eagles and the Carthage Eagles have claimed six wins in the rivalry, while eight games have been drawn.
The teams last met in an international friendly, in Austria in October 2020, which ended in a 1-1 draw thanks to goals from Kelechi Iheanacho and Mohamed Drager. The winners of this match will face either Burkina Faso or Gabon in a Quarterfinal in Garoua on Saturday 29 January.