By Victor Kanayo
Nigeria, three-time Champions of Africa are only one match away from attaining a much coveted 100-game milestone.
In the continent, three countries – Egypt, Ghana and Cote d’ivoire have reached the mark.
On The Trail Of Egypt, Ghana And Cote d’ivoire
Before going into the last group encounter of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’ivoire, Egypt with seven titles have already played 109 games, Ghana have featured in 104 matches, while Cote d’Ivoire have thus far played 101 games.
Nigeria currently at 99 will hit 100 when the Super Eagles face Guinea-Bissau in the final group A encounter on Monday, January 22, 2024.
Periscoping African Giants
Nigeria played their first match in the tournament proper on November 24, 1963, when they lost 6-3 to Egypt in Mumasi.
They hit the half century mark on home soil in 2000, when they pipped Senegal 2-1 in a pulsating quarterfinal match in Lagos.
The Super Eagles have won the tournament thrice – 1980, 1994 and 2013.
Ahead Of Guinea-Bissau Clash
Both Nigeria and Guinea-Bissau are fancying their chances of emerging victorious.
While a win or draw will ensure that Nigeria sail into the knockout stage of the 34th tournament, the Djurtus of Guinea-Bissau will most likely not make any headway irrespective of the outcome after they already suffered two defeats to Cote d’ivoire and Equitorial Guinea.
On their part, the Super Eagles have garnered four points, courtesy of their victory against the host country and a draw with Equitorial Guinea.
They are looking forward to a fourth AFCON title at end of the tournament.
What The Coaches Are Up To
Super Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro has revealed that it is important for his side to remain humble going into their Group A clash with Guinea-Bissau.
In any case, Peseiro’s men are overwhelming favourites going into the game against Guinea-Bissau.
However, the Nigerian coach during a pre-match press conference on Sunday said, “We beat Cote d’Ivoire, it’s good for us, our confidence and what we want to achieve in this competition.
“It also improve our confidence, but we also need to show more commitment. We have to respect the opponent.
“Guinea-Bissau have good players, they can beat any team. We have seen so many shocking results in this competition already.
“It is important for us to take it game by game and not think too far. We want to show better performance, show our quality, and capacity. If we do that no team can beat us.”
Also speaking, Guinea-Bissau tactician Baciro Cande said though his side don’t stand any chance of progressing, the pride of the nation is at stake.
“We will play for pride, we need to go home with points so we don’t just exit the competition empty handed,” he said.
…And Morocco Stumble, Tanzania In Anguish
On the matches played on Sunday, tournament’s favourite Morocco had to share the points in a 1-1 draw with the Democratic Republic of Congo in their Africa Cup of Nations second group F clash on Sunday.
Achraf Hakimi scored in the sixth minute for Morocco, whose run to the semi-final of the World Cup in Qatar 14 months ago has made them the team to beat at the tournament in Cote D’Ivoire.
But the Congolese squandered a first half penalty before substitute Silas Katompa swept home a deserved 76th minute equaliser at the Laurent Pokou Stadium.
Consequently, Tanzania had hopes of a first Africa Cup of Nations win after 44 years dashed when 10-man Zambia snatched a late 1-1 group F draw in San Pedro on Sunday.
Morocco has four points, DR Congo and Zambia two each and Tanzania one ahead of the final group matches on Wednesday in Cote d’ivoire.
Aborted Historic Feat By Caretaker Coach
Tanzania was coached by caretaker Hemed Suleiman after Adel Amrouche was suspended by the Confederation of African Football, and then fired by the Tanzanian Football Federation.
CAF banned the Algerian coach for eight matches after he claimed in a TV interview that Moroccan officials were influencing the appointment of match officials and kick-off times.
Tanzania went into this match with a dismal record of one draw and six losses from three appearances at the African football showpiece.
Now, they have themselves to blame as it only appears that going home is what remains for the embattled side with CAF hanging on the East African nation.