AFCON semi-final: Eagles, Foxes in titanic battle for final spot
Nigeria and Algeria will clash for the 21st time at senior men’s level on Sunday (today) night in an AFCON 2019 semi-final encounter that promises lots of fireworks at the Cairo International Stadium.
The winners proceed to the final, also billed for the Cairo International Stadium on July 19, against the winners of the first semi-final between Senegal and Tunisia. Both sides clash at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo.
Three-time champions Nigeria are looking for their fourth title since winning their first on home soil at the expense of Algeria in 1980, while the Algerians are looking for their second gong since their only title won on home soil at the expense of Nigeria in 1990.
Previous encounters between the Super Eagles and the Desert Foxes have always provided tremendous sparks, and the nature and balance of the rivalry is reflected in the record, which shows that Nigeria has won eight of the previous encounters while Algeria had won seven, with five drawn.
Most recently, in 2017, Nigeria stopped Algeria from qualifying for the 2018 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 World Cup qualifying match.
At the ongoing 32nd Africa Cup of Nations, the Desert Foxes have emerged as perhaps the best organised team, tactically aware and disciplined in their approach, with swift counter-attacking competence, and have beaten Africa’s number one –ranked team Senegal, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire among others.
But the Eagles have been mature in their approach, keeping their feet on the ground, cautious but able to smell opportunities to strike and able to swing games in their favour even towards the end. This approach has accounted for Guinea, Cup holders Cameroon, South Africa, and also Burundi.
Coach of the Foxes, Djamel Belmadi, made it clear on Saturday that his wards are aiming for the trophy and would like to pay Nigeria back after stopping them from reaching the 2018 World Cup.
On his part, Coach Gernot Rohr says defeat by Madagascar has rudely awakened his Eagles to the approach they must adopt to win each game, by not underrating any team, and he believes the same will be deployed against the Foxes on Sunday night.