By ENIOLA OLATUNJI
The star match of group B of the Total African Cup of Nations between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the National Elephants formerly known as the Syli Stars of Guinea which opens the second round of group matches on Wednesday may go either way. The match is to take place at the ancient University town of Alexandria Stadium in Egypt at 3:30pm Nigerian time on Wednesday.
Although both teams belong to the West African football Union (WAFU), their rivalry has been very close. They have both met 17 times and each won 5 games and drew 7.
Their records in the African Cup of Nations are as follows: 27/07/63 2-2 in Nigeria; 06/10/63 Guinea won at home 1-0; 09/03/76 1-1; twice in 1989 1-1 in Guinea (09/04) and Nigeria won (22/04) 3-0 in Lagos; 10/10/2010 Nigeria won 1-0 in Guinea and drew 08/10/2011 2-2 in Nigeria. The last time they met on January 26, 2016 Nigeria ran away with a lone goal victory.
The two teams are expected to emerge from group B because Burundi and Madagascar are mere debutants – inexperienced compared to Nigeria and Guinea. But the two teams did not actually prove that in the first group matches. Nigeria got a scrappy lone goal victory of Odion Ighalo’s boot while Guinea was forced to a 2-2 draw by Madagascar.
While Nigeria is making her 18th appearance in the tournament, Guinea is coming the 12th time. Nigeria won the trophy thrice – 1980, 1994 and 2013; won silver (Runners up) thrice – 1984, 1988, 1990 and 2000; bronze (third place) seven times – 1976; 1978; 1992; 2002; 2004; 2006 and 2010 but lost in Quarterfinal once in 2008. Very impressive record. Guinea was only Runners Up in 1976; made quarterfinals four times – 2004; 2006, 2008 and 2015 which made the look quarters specialist.
Nigeria has played 87 games in the Cup of Nation up to date won 46, drew 22, lost 19, GF121 and GA80 (Ighalo’s goal is the 121 goal). Guinea played 40, won 11, drew16 (game against Madagascar is the 16th draw), lost 13, GF57 and GA59. The last draw against Madagascar shows a weak defense for Guinea. Do not forget that they got a penalty in their first match.
Rohr had developed a low scoring team and that may be the Eagles Achilles heel. All Nigerian football teams have a character of waiting for the second half to finish the game and are low scoring. Three of Nigeria’s players did not train with the team on Monday. They are Shehu Abdullahi who will miss the match due to hamstring injury; natural left full back Jamilu Collins but Aina is there and has improved and Samuel Kalu the man who was speculated to have heart attach due to the 40oC. He is fit now but may be left out of the match. Continental pre-tournament highest scorer with 7goals, Odion Ighalo is still available. Both teams play physical football but Nigeria has more star players that could rock Guinea’s boat. Liverpool’s Keita who had injuries may play Nigeria as he is seriously trying to keep fit. It is believed that whoever wins that NIGUI# will top the group.
The two debutants in the group, Burundi and Madagascar will meet on Thursday at 3:30pm. That match may see Guinea go out if Guinea loses to Nigeria and Madagascar beats Burundi. We do not have information about the two but from what we have seen; Madagascar is expected to beat Burundi neat because they have lethal shots that could bend iron. If Nigeria wins, she will chalk 6pts and Guinea will have just a point. If Madagascar wins on Thursday, she will have 4pts and Burundi will still be zero point. Then, Guinea will be desperate to win with good margin in the third round matches against Burundi. Nigeria will only need a draw against Madagascar to garner 7pts to top group B and if that happens, Guinea may end up third in the group.
However, Ugandan Cranes will play Zimbabwe Warriors at 6pm and hosts Pharaoh of Egypt will tackle Democratic Republic of Congo at 9pm both on Wednesday to move group A forward. Egypt struggled to defeat Zimbabwe by a lone goal but Uganda slammed Congo 2-0. A loss by Congo may mean bye to the cup of Nations.