AFCON: Super Eagles Battle Desert Foxes for Final Ticket
Nigeria’s Super Eagles and Algeria’s Desert Foxes will clash for the 22nd time this night at the Cairo International Stadium Egypt, in what promises to be a match filled with fireworks.
Three –time champions Nigeria won their first title on home soil at the expense of Algeria in 1980, while their opponents are hoping to book a place in the final for a shot at a second title after their only cup was won on home soil against Nigeria in 1990.
It was the last time the Algerians beat the Eagles, with no victory in eight subsequent matches.
Previous encounters between the Eagles and the Foxes have always been keenly contested, and the nature and balance of the rivalry is reflected in the record which shows that Nigeria has won nine, Algeria has won seven, with five drawn.
After Nigeria swept to Africa Cup of Nations glory on the back of a 3-0 lashing of the Foxes in Lagos in 1980, the Foxes got their pound of flesh by not only stopping Nigeria from reaching the 1982 World Cup, beating the Eagles home and away for their first –ever FIFA World Cup ticket, but also edging Nigeria 2-1 in a group phase match at the 1982 Africa Cup of Nations in Libya.
At the 1984 and 1988 Africa Cup of Nations, their matches were drawn, though the Eagles prevailed on penalty shoot-out in the latter as it was a semi final match and a winner had to emerge.
Nigeria also stopped Algeria reaching the 1988 Olympics, beating the North Africans 2-0 in Enugu after a lone goal reverse in Annaba, for a 2-1 aggregate win.
In 1990, Algeria hosted the AFCON and opened with a 5-1 spanking of Nigeria, before again edging their opponents by the odd goal in the final match.
Three years later, Nigeria would stop Algeria qualifying for the World Cup, beating the Foxes 4-1 in Lagos and drawing 1-1 in Algiers for their own first –ever FIFA World Cup ticket.
At the 2002 AFCON in Mali, Nigeria won Algeria 1-0 in a group phase match, and it was the same scoreline eight years later at the AFCON hosted by Angola, with victory this time earning Nigeria the bronze medal.
Most recently in 2017, Nigeria stopped Algeria from qualifying for the FIFA World Cup, as they bashed the Foxes 3-1 in Uyo and tied the second leg in Constantine 1-1 before FIFA awarded the match to Algeria after the Eagles fielded ineligible defender Abdullahi Shehu.
Both teams have secured their best wins over each other on Algerian soil. Algeria’s 5-1 win over Nigeria was in Algiers, in the opening match of the 17th Africa Cup of Nations. Nigeria’s 5-2 win over Algeria was in Oran, in a 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying match.
At the ongoing 32nd Africa Cup of Nations, the Desert Foxes have emerged as perhaps the best organized team, tactically aware and disciplined while also being very aggressive, with swift counter-attacking competence.
They have beaten Africa’s number one –ranked team Senegal, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire among others.
The Super Eagles have been very resilient and have shown good fitness by scoring late goals in multiple matches. They have been cautious but able to smell opportunities and strike with swift counter attacks through pacy wingers.
This approach has put to the sword teams like Guinea, Cup holders Cameroon and the hosts’ conquerors, South Africa.
Coach of the Foxes, Djamel Belmadi, made it clear yesterday that his wards are aiming for the trophy and would like to pay Nigeria back for stopping Algeria reaching the 2018 World Cup.
On his part, Coach Gernot Rohr says defeat by Madagascar has awakened his team to the approach they must adopt to win each game, by not under-rating any team, and he believes the same will be deployed against Algeria this night.
Today’s winner will proceed to the final match of the biggest ever Africa Cup of Nations championship, billed for the Cairo International Stadium on Friday, 19th July, against the winner of the first semi final between Senegal and Tunisia.