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Preview: Nigeria vs. Egypt

Tuesday’s headline match at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations features Egypt taking on Nigeria in a Group D clash between African footballing powers. Egypt, the most historically successful team in the history of the competition with seven AFCON titles, are not among the top favorites even by superstar Mohamed Salah’s admission but expectations are high as always. Meanwhile, Nigeria are under the leadership of interim coach Augustine Eguavoen, who has a talented squad that but one that has struggled in recent months to reach the heights Nigerian supporters demand.

Egyptian supporters are demanding that the Pharaohs assert themselves as contenders after a nightmare 2019 edition where as hosts, Egypt were subject to a shock elimination at the hands of South Africa in the Round of 16. Salah has been careful with his words leading up to the tournament, stating his wishes to win a competition he has yet to capture while remarking that Egypt are “not the first candidate” to win the 2021 edition. The team reported that there are no new Covid-19 infections within the squad, with only goalkeeping backup Mohamed Abougabal and Pyramids FC forward Ibrahim Adel missing as a result of earlier infections. Expect manager Carlos Queiroz to favor European-based players like striker Mostafa Mohamed and Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny in his starting lineup with veteran center back Ahmed Hegazy and goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy anchoring the defense.

The urgency is high on the other side for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. Supporters are hoping that the team will show a new face under Eguavoen after the ups and downs of a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign that saw Nigeria nearly miss out on the final round. There appear to be no absences in the squad due to Covid-19, but center back Leon Balogun will be out due to injury. With superstar striker Victor Osimhen out for the competition due to injury, starting spots are up for grabs in the attack to partner with key forward Kelechi Iheanacho. Former youth national team star and physically imposing goal scorer Taiwo Awoniyi appears likely to get his big opportunity while captain Ahmed Musa, Villarreal winger Samuel Chukwueze and Czech-based Peter Olayinka are all in contention for playing time.

Plenty has been written about the match in the buildup. The National captures the expectations of Egyptian supporters well by reporting on the environment in the country. Nigeria’s Punch newspaper provides Super Eagles manager Eguavoen’s comments and speculates on how his team will look. Check out the links below to read more about the important showdown.

Egypt squad COVID-19 free ahead of Nigeria AFCON opener (KingFut)

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