Coach Augustine Eguavoen and his Super Eagles’ wards face a stern examination of their credentials when Nigeria and seven-time champions Egypt go for each other’s jugular in the opening match of Group D of the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations finals today at the 30,000 –capacity Stade Roumdé Adjia Garoua by 5pm.
Egypt swept the stakes at the first two editions of Africa’s flagship football competition, in 1957 and 1959, and then won on home soil in 1986 and in Burkina Faso 12 years later, before a hat-trick of consecutive titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010.
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Nigeria soared to glory on home soil in 1980, won in Tunisia in 1994 and overturned bookmakers’ predictions to triumph in South Africa nine years ago.
Both teams are not unfamiliar to themselves at the AFCON, with the Pharaohs hammering the Eagles 6-3 in Nigeria’s first-ever match at the competition (in Ghana in 1963) and coming from behind to tame the Eagles 3-1 in the city of Benguela (Angola) in 2010.
In all other confrontations at the Africa Cup of Nations, the Eagles have had the upper hand.
On their march to victory in 1980, the Eagles sailed past the Pharaohs 1-0 in a group phase clash in Ibadan, and four years later, following a pulsating 2-2 draw in a semi-final match in Bouake (Cote d’Ivoire), Nigeria won on penalties to reach the final against Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions.
In 1990, a lone goal by Rashidi Yekini consigned the Pharaohs to defeat in a group phase match in Algiers, and in 1994, both teams battled to a scoreless draw at the Stade Chadli Zouiten in Tunis.