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2021 Africa Cup Of Nations

Nigeria v Egypt – Preview, Predictions and Best Bets

The Super Eagles face the Pharaohs in the opening round of Group D at the Africa Cup of Nations. These sides have a combined 10 AFCON titles to their name but Nigeria lost won in 2013 and it’s been 12 years since Egypt won this tournament. In fact, the last time these sides met in the AFCON, was the opening match in 2010 when Egypt won 3-1 and went on to win the showpiece. Nigeria’s squad has been wrecked by injuries, COVID-19, and club vs country fighting ahead of this match.

The Super Eagles face the Pharaohs in the opening round of Group D at the Africa Cup of Nations. These sides have a combined 10 AFCON titles to their name but Nigeria lost won in 2013 and it’s been 12 years since Egypt won this tournament. In fact, the last time these sides met in the AFCON, was the opening match in 2010 when Egypt won 3-1 and went on to win the showpiece. Nigeria’s squad has been wrecked by injuries, COVID-19, and club vs country fighting ahead of this match.

Nigeria Form

Nigeria’s most recent matches have all been World Cup qualifiers. They qualified for this AFCON unbeaten with four wins and two draws in six matches. WC qualifiers were far less straightforward for the Super Eagles. After starting with a 2-0 win against Liberia and then a 2-1 win in Cape Verde, they were sitting pretty. However, a 1-0 home loss to the Central African Republic followed.

They were fortunate to play the return fixture in Cameroon on a good playing surface and won 2-0 as Leon Balogun and Victor Osimhen scored the goals. A 2-0 win in Liberia followed to leave them two points clear of Cape Verde going into the final match. The match ended 1-1 in Lagos to secure passage to the next round of World Cup qualifying.

Nigeria Team News

The attack has been decimated by a variety of issues. Victor Osimhen returned from injury to be called up but then tested positive for COVID-19 and isn’t in the squad. Watford has refused to release winger Emmanuel Dennis whilst target man Paul Onuachu is injured too. Odion Ighalo was selected but his club wouldn’t let him go due to a clause in his contract. Union Berlin’s Taiwo Awoniyi could feature alongside Kelechi Iheanacho.

Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze (due to long-term injury) have not played much at club level but will need to step up. Leon Balogun is injured in defence, as is Peter Etebo in midfield. Olisa Ndah could be a surprise starter after impressing for Orlando Pirates.

Nigeria Motivation

The Super Eagles will be desperate to do well. They lack some creativity and many of their best attackers whilst there are question marks in defence. A more conservative approach could be seen as a hangover from the recently sacked Gernot Rohr.

New coach José Peseiro traveling with the team to observe but Augustine Eguavoen is technically in charge.

The coaches would almost certainly be satisfied to take a draw from this opening match.

Egypt Form

Carlos Queiroz got Egypt to top their World Cup qualifying group without defeat. They won four and drew two matches and won all three of their home games. They qualified with a match to spare but only netted 10 goals.

Egypt has since played in the Arab Cup and finished fourth after losing 1-0 to Tunisia in the semi-finals and then to Qatar on spot-kicks after a 0-0 stalemate in the third-place playoff. They had a strong team for that tournament but none of their overseas-based players.

Egypt Team News

Queiroz naturally has his favourites and Egyptian Premier League stars like Al Ahly playmaker Mohamed Magdy Afsha and Zamalek’s forward Tarek Hamed were amongst those left out. Ramadan Sobhi is back in the picture after being dropped from recent squads and from the Arab Cup.

Turkey-based strikers Ahmed Hassan Kouka and Ahmed Yasser Rayan have both been left out too. The big news is that Aston Villa winger Trezeguet is fit and has been selected despite only a few club minutes since their long-term injury. Mohamed Salah is naturally a star man and could even play centrally. Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal is a key man in the engine room

Egypt Motivation

With the format rendering the group stage a bit of precession for most of the top teams, Egypt will be happy to avoid defeat and not wear themselves out too early.

Queiroz gets his side organised defensively, pressing well in midfield and strong on transitions.

Key Stats

Egypt have drawn 5 of their last 12 qualifiers (excludes Arab Cup)

Egypt kept 4 clean sheets in 6 WC qualifiers

Egypt has lost 8 of their 18 previous meetings with Nigeria

Nigeria have seen under 2.5 goals in 5 of their last 6 matches

Absent striker Osimhen scored 4 of Nigeria’s 9 goals in WC qualifying

Nigeria have lost 2 of their last 5 AFCON matches (2-0 to Madagascar and 2-1 to Algeria in 2019)

Verdict

This tournament is difficult to call with the group stages with 16 of the 24 teams progressing. These sides are likely to play out a cagey match with a draw looking like good value.

Best Bet: Draw at 2.85
Multiplier Leg: Egypt win/draw double chance + under 3.5 goals at 1.64
Score Tip: Nigeria 1-1 Egypt at 6.50
Goalscorers Tip: Salah and Iheanacho to both score (anytime scorer) at 5.79

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James is a football analyst who writes about the tactics of the PSL and English Premier League. He holds the UEFA A coaching licence and has previously worked for several clubs in analysis roles.Twitter: https://twitter.com/footy_analysis

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