It will be a clash of two titans when Nigeria Super Eagles lock horns with Tunisia Carthage Eagles in Garoua on Sunday.
Both former champions contest for who will soar higher as they eye a place in the quarterfinals of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon 2021.
The Super Eagles were the only side to get the maximum points in the group stage. This will give Augustine Eguavoen men maximum confidence before the knockouts.
Nigeria started the campaign with a 1-0 win over record champions Egypt, followed by a 3-1 victory over Sudan and concluded the group with a 2-0 win against Guinea Bissau.
Champions in 1980, 1994 and 2013, the group stage maximum tally and entertaining performances may give the Super Eagles the needed morale boast in their hunt for a fourth AFCON title.
According to the Super Eagles head coach Augustine Eguavoen, they plan to go as far as possible in this tournament starting with victory on Sunday.
“We topped our group with maximum points, but this is a totally different story, and the players and technical staff know this well. We are not done with what we had in the group,” Eguavoen said before adding.
“We will work together for the coming steps. We plan to go as far as possible. Being named best coach of the group stage was because of the players. They make coaches win.”
“Tunisia deserved to qualify, and we respect each other. We both have the same target which is to win and qualify. We will continue to work in the same way,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Carthage Eagles suffered to find a place in the round of 16 which they only reached as one of the best four third placed teams.
A 4-0 win over Mauritania ensured their pass, but it came between two 1-0 defeats to Mali and Gambia respectively.
And the group was highlighted by the Tunisians missing three penalties, one in each game and via three different players.
Struck by many absences, it would be a tough mission for the 2004 champions, but they will give their all to set a new start to their campaign.
“Our target was to reach the second round and we did that. We have a lot of confidence despite the difficulties we are facing,” Tunisia assistant coach Bilal Kadri said.
“We know well how strong Nigeria is, but we are all ready to go far in this tournament.”
“Our morale is good, and we have experienced and great players. Luck was not on our side, but this is football.”
“We wished that we are not affected by COVID-19, but we have to deal with the situation professionally. Everyone will give 200% of their powers,” he added.
Nigeria and Tunisia are meeting for the sixth time at the Africa Cup of Nations, with four of the previous five matches being played in knock-out games.
The Super Eagles are unbeaten in all five with three wins and two draws.
The two sides last met in the third place match in Egypt 2019, with Nigeria prevailing 1-0 on the day.