January, 17 2022.
Head Coach Augustine Owen Eguavoen says his already-qualified Super Eagles have no reason to look down on their opponents or approach the game in a carefree manner when they take to the pitch of Stade Roumdé Adjia in Garoua against the Wild Dogs of Guinea Bissau on Wednesday.
Nigeria have eased into the Round of 16 as group leaders, with a match to spare, courtesy of the wins over Egypt and Sudan in their two matches and the combination of other results, notably Egypt’s defeat of Guinea Bissau on Saturday.
Yet, Eguavoen says his team will deduct nothing from their consolidated one-match-at-a-time and win-all strategy adopted for the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations, even as there is no serious pressure going into that final group phase encounter.
“It is important for us to sustain the winning mentality while we keep our heads on our shoulders. Just as I told the boys after the match against Egypt, we are yet to win anything here except points. Guinea Bissau need the three points because they have only one so far and we must be prepared for a massive fight.
“If we let down our guard, we could be punished, and that would not be good for the team’s psychology. We will go for the three points.”
Guinea Bissau drew 0-0 with Sudan in their first match, losing a penalty awarded to them late in the gane, and then fell to a Mohamed Salah goal in a match they gave their all and even felt they should have been awarded an equalizer that was cancelled late in the encounter.
“With a little more luck, they could have beaten Sudan and could have drawn with Egypt. That is the kind of opposition we face on Wednesday. Nobody will tell me they’re pushovers,” added Eguavoen.
Eguavoen, 56, is the only man to have coached Nigeria to win all three matches in the group phase of the AFCON since the country started participating at this level since 1963. He was head coach when the Eagles defeated Ghana 1-0, Zimbabwe 2-0 and Senegal 2-1 at the Al Masry Stadium, Port Said to sweep the stakes at the 2006 finals.
In 14 previous matches across three stints, the 1994 AFCON winner and two-time FIFA World Cup defender has left the field victorious in 12 matches, losing only two – the 0-1 defeat to Cote d’Ivoire in the semi final of the 2006 finals and a 2012 AFCON qualifier in Guinea that was embroiled in circumstances of uncertainty, which the team lost by the odd goal.
As he surveyed his boys at training on Sunday morning and thereafter entertained questions from the media, the former defender smiled easily at a suggestion that his team could end up playing hosts Cameroon in the final match, as he also was involved as a player in the 1988 final against the Cameroonians in Morocco that Nigeria lost by a lone goal, and the bronze medal match of the 1992 edition that the Super Eagles won 2-1.
“That is still a long way off. We are focused on the match against Guinea Bissau. One game at a time.”
The Confederation of African Football has appointed Kenyan official Peter Waweru Kamaku as referee for Wednesday’s encounter. The 39 –year old has a doctorate degree in Pure Mathematics and is a university lecturer. He will be assisted by compatriot Gilbert Cheruiyot (assistant referee 1), Mozambican Arsenio Maringule (assistant referee 2) and Moroccan Redouane Jiyed (fourth official).
The match commissioner will be Youssouf Guedi Guirreh from Djibouti.