Nigeria’s Super Eagles must beat the Pharaohs of Egypt at the Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria on Tuesday to stand any chance of qualifying for the 2017 African Cup of Nations in Gabon.
The three-time champions were held 1-1 by Egypt at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna last week Friday, to further put the team’s hope of qualifying for the bi-annual tournament in jeopardy.
A defensive error from the Super Eagles allowed Egypt’s Mohammed Salah to score the equalizing goal in the 92nd minute of the game. These are one of the areas the technical crew of the team must work on considering the fact that the reverse fixture in Alexandria will be tense
The withdrawal of Chad from the qualifying campaign on Sunday means that all points gained from them will be deducted, meaning that second place, Nigeria are on with two points, and group leaders, Egypt are on with four points and third place, Tanzania have one point.
Nigeria, who missed out on the 2015 AFCON, could have qualified as one of the best runners-up, but CAF confirmed that only the top team from Group G will qualify for 2017, a situation which puts the team in a must-win encounter.
A win would be the only positive result for the Super Eagles that could change the complexity of the group with two matches left to play. There is still an outside chance for Tanzania to squeeze through if they could manage to win their remaining two matches.
With the absence of Super Eagles goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme due to stomach problems, the team’s coach, Samson Siasia will have to do with the services of either Daniel Akpeyi or Ikechukwu Ezenwa against Egypt.
Nigeria will be boosted with the return from a three-match ban of Lazio midfielder Ogenyi Onazi for Etebo to play a more attacking role in midfield.
To further boost the morale of the team, owner of Ifeanyiubah FC, Ifeanyin Ubah, has issued a cheque of $8,000 to the team in a bid to spur the team to victory against Egypt in Alexandria.
Meanwhile, Egypt have handed a late call up to goalkeeper Ali Lofti to replace the injured veteran Essam El-Hadary.
Wadi Degla’s El-Hadary pulled a muscle during Egypt’s first training session in Nigeria which ruled him out of the 1-1 draw on Friday. Lofti will join up with the two other goalkeepers-Ahmeds El Shenawy of Zamalek and Mohamed El Shenawy of Petrojet for the second leg game at the Borg El-Arab Stadium.
Super Eagles midfielder, John Obi Mikel has charged the Super Eagles to give everything when they face Egypt for the second time in Alexandria in their quest to qualify for next year’s AFCON in Gabon.
“It’s a massive battle that we are going for, and there should be no illusion about it. We have to face reality, and everyone has to give more than 100 per cent because we just have to qualify for the Cup of Nations,” Mikel said.
“We have to go to Alexandria and fight with everything we have. There are still matches to play and we have confidence that we will earn the ticket. We also call on Nigerians to believe in the team and continue to support us,” Mikel added.
Super Eagles left back Stanley Amuzie has apologized to Nigerian football fans after the 1-1 draw with Egypt, on Friday.
“I can’t afford to dwell on Friday’s game because our minds are now on the second leg because that is what is important now,” he revealed.
“We are already looking forward to the game because we have another chance to get the three points at stake. Egypt are a good side as they showed but we are also good. If they can get a draw here I see no reason why we can’t get points over there. The team is determined to make Nigeria proud and we are heading to Egypt for business. I want the fans to continue to support the team,” Amuzie added.
In addition, Egypt national team manager Héctor Cúper said that the Pharaohs are targeting nothing but victory in their upcoming match against Nigeria.
“We will have an attacking approach and we aim to create more goal scoring opportunities,” Cúper said in a televised interview on Sunday.
“We have one target against Nigeria, which is achieving victory. All the players are ready and the atmosphere will be different than the first match,” Cúper said in reference to the security officials’ decision to allow 40,000 supporters into Borg El-Arab Stadium.
“We don’t care whether Chad have withdrawn. We focus only on achieving victory against Nigeria, this is the most important thing,” the former Valencia manager added.