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Preview: Nigeria vs. Tunisia

The later match on Sunday at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations features a battle between eagles as the Super Eagles of Nigeria take on a severely underhanded Carthage Eagles side from Tunisia in the Round of 16. Nigeria are now considered among the favorites to win top prize in Cameroon following a flawless group stage that saw them win all three matches. Despite advancing to the knockout stage, Tunisia are a team that has arguably suffered more than any other team from Covid-19 absences and that theme will continue into Sunday’s matchup.

Nigeria manager Augustine Eguavoen knows this matchup well, having coached Nigeria to a shootout victory over the Carthage Eagles in the 2006 AFCON quarterfinals. The former Nigeria national team defender is taking Sunday’s opponents seriously and declared that he will make sure his team does not fall into the trap of underestimating Tunisia. Central midfielder Wilfried Ndidi expressed the team’s satisfaction that their first knockout stage match will be held in the city of Garoua near Cameroon’s border with Nigeria, where the team enjoyed additional support during its group stage fixtures. There are no reported Covid-19 absences in the Nigerian camp and the team should be well rested after Eguavoen rotated in multiple players for the final Group D match against Guinea-Bissau.

The Tunisian camp has been ravaged by Covid-19 and there will be at least ten squad members who are unavailable on Sunday as well as manager Mondher Kebaier. Captain and forward Wahbi Khazri leads a list of unavailable players that includes Anis Ben Slimane, Ali Maâloul, Aïssa Laidouni, Ghaylène Chaalali, Ellyes Skhiri, Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane, Mohamed Ben Hmida, Aymen Dahmen and Yoann Touzgha. The bright side for Tunisia is the return of two players from Covid, starting central defender Dylan Bronn and forward Issam Jebali. Tunisia made it into the Round of 16 with only one win against Mauritania and two losses from their three group stage matches, and the country’s press have not been kind in their assessments even considering all the Covid-19 issues. In particular, the team’s defensive posture and failure to turn its domination of possession into goals has been highlighted.

Key Matchup: Montasser Talbi (TUN) vs. Kelechi Iheanacho (NGA)

Talbi, the 23-year-old defender who plays his club football in Russia with Rubin Kazan, continues to see his role grow in the heart of the Tunisian defense. His tall frame and experience in Turkish and Russian football will have him well prepared for Nigeria’s physically strong forwards. Iheanacho will be a threat both in the penalty area as well as when he acts as a playmaker outside of the box.

Key Matchup: Mohamed Dräger (TUN) vs. Moses Simon (NGA)

Dräger, who recovered from Covid to make a substitute appearance against Gambia, has plenty of attacking ability to offer down the right flank but will need to be keen on his defensive duties whether he lines up as a right back or wing back. Moses Simon has been absolutely electric on the left and will look to dribble at the Tunisian defense, possessing two-footed ability to either get to the end line for a cross or cut inside and go for goal himself. Included in the links below is a story on Simon’s evolution into a force for the Super Eagles.

Prediction

Nigeria 3-0 Tunisia

News Links

Nigeria v Tunisia – Who will soar higher? (CAF Online)
Match Facts – Nigeria v Tunisia (CAF Online)
Eguavoen Expects Tough March against Tunisia (This Day)

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