AFCON matchday preview: Nigeria bid to extend winning run as knockouts begin

By Sports Desk January 22, 2022

By Sunday evening in Cameroon, the first two quarter-finalists at the Africa Cup of Nations will be known.

Burkina Faso should start as slight favourites against Gabon, chiefly due to their win when the teams met ahead of the tournament.

Nigeria will then be expected to overcome a Tunisia side who qualified for the last-16 stage via the back door.

Burkina Faso v Gabon (16:00 GMT)

Burkina Faso rather scrambled through the group stage, losing their opener to the hosts before winning 1-0 against Cape Verde and drawing 1-1 with Ethiopia.

They were runners-up in 2013 and finished third in 2017, so this is far from uncharted territory and a 3-0 win over Gabon in a warm-up game for this tournament at the start of January may be a guide of what to expect from this tussle in Limbe.

Midfielder Adama Guira is urging caution though, telling the Sidwaya newspaper: "A lot of things have changed on the Gabonese side after this friendly match. Their last outing against Morocco attests to this. They are a very good team."

Gabon were unbeaten in the group stage, despite the disruption of losing captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and midfielder Mario Lemina after brushes with COVID-19. A win over the Comoros was consolidated by draws with Ghana and Morocco.

That pre-tournament loss to the Stallions might be a factor, but Gabon are unbeaten in their previous two AFCON meetings with Sunday's opponents – both having taken place in the group stages (2-0 in 2015 and 1-1 in 2017).

One to watch: Guelor Kanga (Gabon)

Red Star Belgrade attacking midfielder Kanga has been a livewire for Gabon so far in the tournament, with a team-high eight shots and five chances created (one assist). It earned him a place among the substitutes in the tournament's official best team of the group stage.

 

Nigeria v Tunisia (19:00 GMT)

Nigeria have two players in the group stage's best XI, with centre-back William Troost-Ekong and forward Moses Simon both earning plaudits for their early performances.

Augustine Eguavoen's team were the only side with a 100 per cent winning record in the groups, and now they tackle a Tunisia outfit who only edged through as one of the best third-placed teams, having lost twice already.

These sides are meeting for the sixth time at the Africa Cup of Nations and Tunisia's only successful AFCON meeting with Nigeria came in 2004, when they progressed via penalties in the semi-finals, going on to win the competition.

Nigeria have won 12 of their last 14 AFCON games (L2), and they start this game as hot favourites.

Nigeria have had more different scorers (6) than any other team so far at this year's tournament, with Kelechi Iheanacho, Simon, Simon Chukwueze, Taiwo Awoniyi, Troost-Ekong and Umar Sadiq each scoring once.

One to watch: Kelechi Iheanacho

The Leicester City striker has one goal and one assist so far, creating a team-high six chances. Such evidence points to him being a likely menace to the Tunisian defence.

 

Related items

  • Yorke lands coaching job with Australia A-League club Macarthur Yorke lands coaching job with Australia A-League club Macarthur

    Former Trinidad and Tobago international and Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke has landed a coaching role with Australia A-League (ASL) club Macarthur FC.

    The journey to such a position has been a long and arduous one for the 50-year-old who has in years gone by often complained of a lack of diversity in English football.  According to Yorke, despite the recommendation of legendary coach Sir Alex Ferguson he struggled to even land interviews.  The ormer top marksman has, however, finally gotten his chance.

    The Trinidadian has, however, served football in other capacities, taking a role with the Trinidad and Tobago national team, as an assistant coach, in 2009, after retiring from the sport.

    Yorke, who was also an advisor within the Manchester United youth set-up, also interviewed for a job with Sutton United but was not selected to coach the National League club.  The former player was also thought to have been in contention for the Aston Villa job earlier this season but the team opted for former Liverpool player Steven Gerrard.

    He has, reportedly, agreed to a two-year contract with Macarthur, which is based in Southwestern Sydney.  Another Caribbean international, Adrian Marriapa, who represents Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz, is a part of the squad having joined the team last season.

     

     

  • Liverpool squad stars 'like Ferraris in the garage' – Klopp Liverpool squad stars 'like Ferraris in the garage' – Klopp

    Liverpool's squad players were describes as "Ferraris in the garage" by Jurgen Klopp after the title chasers came from behind to beat Southampton.

    Klopp made nine changes to his line-up for the trip to St Mary's on Tuesday, where Liverpool realistically had to win to keep hopes of winning the Premier League title alive.

    Although the Reds fell behind to Nathan Redmond's opener, Takumi Minamino pulled them level before half-time and Joel Matip's header secured a huge three points.

    Minamino also scored in his most recent previous Premier League start for Liverpool – a 7-0 win over Crystal Palace in December 2020. That gap of 514 days between scoring in consecutive starts for a top-flight club is the longest since Duncan Ferguson's 533 days for Everton from April 2002 until September 2003.

    Klopp was proud of the result and said any further success that EFL Cup and FA Cup winners Liverpool experience this season is down to the strength in depth they possess.

    "I'm so happy about the performance, it was a bit touching, to be honest," Klopp told a post-match news conference.

    "These boys, it's like having Ferraris in the garage. Harvey [Elliott], I'm not sure when he played last. Curtis [Jones], no rhythm, he played from time to time. Takumi Minamino, it's a crime he's not playing more often. Oxlade [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] didn't even play and he's in outstanding shape.

    "It's really tough for the boys, but whatever happens this year happened because of this group. It's exceptional, and tonight they showed that again."

    Klopp added to Sky Sports: "I've never had a group like this. Because we win most of the time there are not a lot of things you can really argue about. But there are two opportunities how you can deal with it: you give up, or you play your role in the group, and this group push each other constantly.

    "In the end it's absolutely outstanding. We came here and had to do what we did, and it worked out because of the boys." 

    Joe Gomez hobbled off injured at half-time and did not return for the second half. Klopp was hopeful the defender had avoided a serious injury, though he reportedly left the stadium on crutches.

    "I hope we are lucky. Joe himself has pain but not too much, but it was really like a shock to the system,” Klopp said.

    “He was sitting in the dressing room, when I spoke to him he was in a good mood so I think we were probably lucky, but we have to figure that out."

    Liverpool are one point behind leaders Manchester City, and will have to beat Wolves at Anfield on Sunday to stand any chance of winning the Premier League.

    City will be entertaining Aston Villa at the same time, but Klopp is not planning to chat to Steven Gerrard before he takes his side to the Etihad Stadium.

    "No, of course not … There's no reason to talk to him [Gerrard]. We all know Villa wants to win because Villa wants to win," said Klopp.

    "We have to first win our game, we can't talk about Wolves as if they will not be there. It's difficult enough.

    "Imagine we went there with one ear in Manchester and [Raul] Jimenez headed in the ball. We will be 100 per cent focused.

    "So many things happened in this second half of the season. If we become champions it would be deserved as well, but for that we have to win."

  • Dembele 'tempted' by Barca exit as Laporta hopes star stays Dembele 'tempted' by Barca exit as Laporta hopes star stays

    Ousmane Dembele is considering a move away from Barcelona, but Joan Laporta hopes the winger will decide to stay put. 

    Barcelona paid an initial €105million to sign Dembele from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 and the five-year contract he received is set to run out next month.

    Bayern Munich and Chelsea are reported to be keen on the World Cup-winning winger, who could be available on a free transfer.

    Laporta acknowledged that Dembele is intrigued by the interest being shown in him, but the Barcelona president believes he could well choose to stay at Camp Nou.

    "He wants to stay but is very tempted by other options that offer conditions that may be considered better than ours," Laporta told Radio Catalunya.

    "The offer has been on the table for some time. They will respond when the season is over. We would've liked to have an answer sooner, but we can't force it.

    "The coach likes him and I like him. We've made a very important effort to make him stay. He looks very comfortable and has a good relationship with everyone. Auba [Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang] has come, and they are very good friends.

    "He has representatives who are in control of the situation, but I hope he stays. If not, we will reinforce that position."

    Laporta sounded more confident on the prospects of teenage midfielder Gavi signing a contract extension after an impressive breakthrough campaign with the first team.

    "Let's let the technical secretariat work. He has received an offer. I hope that Ivan de la Pena [Gavi's agent] responds favourably to the proposal," Laporta said.

    A renewal for Dani Alves could also be on the cards as the 39-year-old right-back, who signed a cut-price deal to return to Barca, eyes a place in Brazil's World Cup squad.

    Laporta said: "I would like him to continue. He adjusted a lot so as not to hurt us in the [financial] fair play issue. He is excited to play in the World Cup and if he continues with that attitude, he doesn't endanger our accounts. We'll see."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.