Eagles, Paraohs set Kaduna on fire with must-win AFCON qualifier

By Adeyinka Akintunde, Lagos on March 25, 2016

Views: 1,220

The Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna will boil from 5pm today when the Super Eagles of Nigeria battle the Pharaohs of Egypt in the first-leg of the double-header qualifying fixture for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCAON). It is widely believed that the outcome of the game and the return leg holding next Tuesday in Alexandria, Egypt, will determine whether Nigeria will qualify for Gabon 2017 AFCON or not, regardless of their next fixtures. This is because Egypt presently top the group, with Nigeria in second position.

Nigeria has just recovered from the resignation of former head coach Sunday Oliseh, who suddenly threw in the towel after failing to qualify Nigeria from the group stages of the last African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Rwanda.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) had quickly drafted in Super Eagles former head coach Samson Siasia, who promptly swung into action, inviting 42 players for camping in Abuja – starting with the home-based players, who were joined early this week by their foreign-based counterparts before the team moved to Kaduna on Tuesday.

The presence of star players like new skipper John Mikel Obi, deputy captain Ahmed Musa, mesmerising winger Victor Moses, daring strikers Odion Ighalo and Alex Iwobi, among others, has boosted the morale of the Super Eagles, who have been talking tough ahead of the game. This has given football-loving Nigerians the hope that the boys are out for the six points in the double-header cracker in Kaduna and Alexandria.

But Egypt will by no means be a pushover. Dominated by home-based players who are used to playing with each other, they will likely be more cohesive and show more understanding on the field of play. The presence of Arsenal of England forward Mohammed Elneny – who scored against Barcelona of Spain in the European Champions League last week – great forward Ahmed Hassan, and Mohammed Saleh is enough to give any defence headache. The five times African Cup of Nations winner (absent at the last edition in Equatorial Guinea, alongside Nigeria), now led by Hector Cupper, will do anything to get to Gabon, even if it means beating Nigeria home and away. The fact that two reliable defenders, Kenneth Omeruo and Leon Balogun, have been ruled out by injury further complicates the problem of the Super Eagles. Even so, the Pharaohs have their own worries as legendary goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary cropped a late injury, meaning that either Ahmed El-Shenawy or Mohamed El-Shenawy will have the misfortune of facing the deadly Nigerian strike force.

The Super Eagles have won two of their last five games, with a loss and two draws. How the statistics will change today would become known after the fireworks, this evening in the crocodile city of Kaduna.

•Photo shows Super Eagles players and Coach Siaisia plotting the fall of the Pharaohs.

Source Daily Sports

Posted March 25, 2016

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