Many football experts and fans on Saturday said Nigeria has what it takes to beat the Desert Foxes of Algeria in the semifinals of the ongoing 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt.
Nigeria and Algeria will clash for the 21st time at senior men’s level on Sunday night in a semi final encounter that promises lots of fireworks at the Cairo International Stadium.
Three –time champions Nigeria are looking for their fourth title since winning their first on home soil at the expense of Algeria in 1980, while the Algerians are looking for their second gong since their only title won on home soil at the expense of Nigeria in 1990.
History checks by newsmen revealed that previous encounters between the Eagles and the Desert Foxes have always provided tremendous sparks, and the nature and balance of the rivalry is reflected in the record which shows that Nigeria has won eight of the previous encounters while Algeria had won seven, with five drawn.
A cross section of football enthusiasts who spoke to NAN in separate interviews noted that history narrowly favored the Eagles in the clash between both sides.
Tunde Popoola, the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Olympic Committee noted that Nigeria had a slight advantage over Algeria which should count on Sunday.
“Algeria head into their first AFCON semi-final since 2010 and their seventh in total, while this is Nigeria’s second AFCON semi-final since 2013 where we went ahead to win the title in South Africa.
“The Eagles have also reached the semifinals stage a record 15 times and going ahead to win the cup thrice in the process.
“Now, this is where experience really counts. You are into the part of the tournament where how to control, manage the match, take your chances and so on come into play.
“These are all factors that will contribute to the semifinal which we are going to look forward to on Sunday.
“It’s all about determination. Both teams have all been there before and that experience of winning caps and cups for your national team will play an important role in any team winning and progressing to the final.
“Having said that, I am confident with the present crop of players we have in the Eagles squad, a good blend of both experience and youth, we have a slight edge over the Desert Foxes and can beat them to the final ticket,’’ he said.
Samson Siasia, an ex-international and former Coach of the Super Eagles said the Algerian side was a better team on paper but would miss the services of one of their key players which was an advantage to Nigeria.
“We must be sincere to ourselves in analysing our chances in this clash. The Algerians are a really tough side to beat any day.
“They have the team. If you look at the materials which they have, strikers like Adams Ounas and Youcef Atal who both picked up an injury, Riyad Mahrez and Baghdad Bounedjah who missed the penalty against Cote d’ Ivoire vote.
“These are quality and dangerous players who can hurt any team any day.
“However, with the absence of the injured Ounas and Atal, I am hopeful that this could be an advantage for the Eagles who have a fully fit squad heading into this encounter.
“Players like Samuel Chukwueze, Ahmed Musa and Moses Simon could be key players in Coach Gernot Rohr’s side and a constant menace down the right and left flanks with their strong runs, which are capable of posing a threat to any opposition’s defence,’’ he said.
Siasia recalled that the two countries had met on eight several occasions at the AFCON, adding that the record was evenly balanced with three wins each and two draws.
“Interestingly, Nigeria and Algeria have met twice in the AFCON final with each country gaining a win.
“So, we are optimistic that we can go one step better than the Desert Foxes this time around,’’ he said.
Newsmen also reports that at the ongoing 32nd AFCON, the Desert Foxes have emerged as perhaps the best organised team, tactically aware and disciplined in their approach, with swift counter-attacking competence.
They have also beaten Africa’s number one –ranked team Senegal, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire among others in the process of making it to this stage.
The Super Eagles have been much matured in their approach, keeping their feet on the ground, cautious but able to smell opportunities to strike and able to swing games in their favour even toward the end.
This approach has accounted for their victory against Burundi, Guinea, Cup holders Cameroon and South Africa.
Coach of the Foxes, Djamel Belmadi made it clear on Saturday that his wards are aiming for the trophy and would like to pay Nigeria back for one after stopping Algeria from reaching the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals.
On his part, Coach Gernot Rohr says defeat by Madagascar has rudely awakened his Eagles to the approach they must adopt to win each game by not under-rating any team.
Rohr believes the same will be deployed against the Foxes on Sunday night.
The winner on Sunday night will proceed to the Final match of the biggest–ever AFCON championship, billed for Cairo International Stadium on July 19, against the winner of the first semi final between Senegal and Tunisia.