The Africa Cup of Nations returns with another nerve-racking fixture as two African heavyweight in Nigeria and Tunisia go head to head at the Roumde Adija Stadium for a place in the quarter-finals on Sunday.
This will be the second knockout-stage encounter between the sides in three years after the Super Eagles secured a slender 1-0 victory in last edition’s third-place playoff tie in Egypt and this makes for an exciting watch.
Nigeria have enjoyed a sensational start to the Africa Cup of Nations and head into the knockout stages as the standout side and team to beat at the tournament after a string of thrilling results.
The Super Eagles kicked off their quest to conquer the continent for a fourth time on a brilliant note as they saw off fellow group favourites Egypt 1-0 on January 11 courtesy of Kelechi Iheanacho’s 30th-minute strike.
This was followed by an even more dominant display in their second group outing as they cruised to a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Sudan four days later, when Samuel Chukwueze, Taiwo Awoniyi and Moses Simon netted before Walieldin Khidir pulled one back from the spot in the 70th minute.
Nigeria wrapped things up in the group stages last time out when they claimed a comfortable 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau when the sides met at the Roumde Adjia Stadium last time out.
With the Djurtus needing all three points to secure passage into the knockout stages, it was Augustine Eguavoen’s men who took the lead through Umar Sadiq’s goal 11 minutes after the interval before William Troost-Ekomg made sure of the result with a 75th-minute strike.
With three wins from their first three games, Nigeria clinched top spot in Group D, three points ahead of second-place Egypt, and are the only side with a perfect record at the tournament so far.
The 2013 champions head into Sunday’s game unbeaten in each of their last six outings across all competitions, claiming five wins and one draw since October’s 1-0 loss against Central African Republic in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
On the other hand, Tunisia, who have barely caught the eye at the tournament, head into the round of 16 as one of the four best third-placed sides in the group stages.
The Eagles of Cartage were denied a dream start to their Africa Cup of Nations campaign when they fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Mali at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium in their opening game on January 12.
Like all good sides do, Mondher Kebaier’s men responded in fine fashion as they steamrollered Mauritania 4-0 in their second group outing four days later, when veteran forward Wahbi Khazri put on a clinic, scoring two goals and registering one assist.
However, the 2004 champions were stunned by an inexperienced Gambia side who secured a 1-0 win when they met in their final group game last time out when Ablie Jallow scored a dramatic 93rd-minute winner to send the Scorpions through to the knockout stages in their first-ever appearance at the tournament.
Tunisia’s struggle for form so far has been in no small part owing to the lack of sting at the attacking end of the pitch as they have now failed to score in three of their last four games across all competitions.
They will now look to bounce back once again and get one over their West African counterparts who snatched a 1-0 victory courtesy of Odion Ighalo’s third-minute strike when the sides went toe to toe for Bronze in Egypt three years back.
Looking at past results between Nigeria and Tunisia, we can expect a cagey contest on Sunday as the results have been split right down the middle in the history of this fixture, with both sides claiming six wins apiece, while the spoils have been shared on eight different occasions.
Nigeria possible starting lineup: Okoye; Sanusi, Troost-Ekong, Omeruo, Aina; Ndidi, Aribo; Simon, Iheanacho, Chukwueze; Awoniyi
Tunisia possible starting lineup: Said; Mathlouthi, Ifa, Talbi, Abdi; Slimane, Skhiri, Laidouni; Mejbri, Rafia, Jaziri