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Eagles begin fourth AFCON chase against Pharaohs

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Nigeria and Egypt will faceoff at the Stade Roumdé Adjia, Garoua as both sides aim to begin their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations on a positive note, The PUNCH reports.

Nigeria will be without top scorer in the qualifiers Victor Osimhen, Watford forward Emmanuel Dennis and 2019 AFCON top scorer Odion Ighalo, while Egypt will not have Mohamed Abogabal and Ibrahim Adel available after both tested positive for COVID-19.

The rivalry between the two sides dates as far back as 1960, when Nigeria secured a 2-1 friendly victory in their first encounter at the National Stadium, Lagos.

Both sides have since gone on to clash on 18 occasions with Nigeria setting the pace with eight victories, losing five with another five draws.

The Super Eagles are one of the most successful nations on the continent following their last triumph back in 2013, when they narrowly defeated a stubborn Burkina Faso side 1-0 courtesy of Sunday Mba’s stunner, to claim the AFCON title for the third time.

While the Eagles, who finished third at the 2019 edition of the football showpiece in Africa, will be seeking their fourth title, the Pharaohs will look to conquer the continent for a record-extending eighth time.

The Eagles qualified for their 19th AFCON appearance enjoying an unbeaten qualification where they finished at the top of Group L with 14 points ahead of Lesotho to secure smooth entry into the group stages of the tournament.

Eagles defender Chidozie Awaziem said Nigeria, who head into today’s game in fine form having won four of their last six competitive games, drew one and lost one, said the team were ready to face Mohammed Salah-led side.

“We are fully focused on the game, we are just a few hours away from our first game and we are fully ready for Egypt,” Awaziem said.

“With our efforts and the help of the coach, I believe we will come out with a positive result.“We have lots of good players in the team to count on.”

While Nigeria will be seeking an opening-day victory over Egypt, the Pharaoh’s coach Carlos Queiroz said his ambition was to go unbeaten throughout the tournament.

“It’s a great pleasure to face Nigeria in the opening game. We want to face the strongest teams in the tournament,” Queiroz said in his pre-match press conference.

“Nigeria is a very strong team, but we have no objections. It’s always good to compete against football giants.

“We have a lot of players that are competing among themselves for a starting position, and that’s great because we came here to play seven games.

“Our ambition is very simple. Win all the matches.”

Egypt’s last AFCON title win was back in 2010 when they saw off Ghana 1-0 courtesy of Mohamed Nagy’s 85th-minute strike in the final and will be eager to start the campaign on a positive note.

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