The resurgent Super Eagles have just one hurdle to cross en route to qualifying for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 knockout stage.
The Djurtus of Guinea-Bissau are not strangers to the Super Eagles, even under the present coach Jose Peseiro. It is expected that they should know how to handle them. Obviously, the Djurtus of Guinea-Bissau themselves have not presented themselves as strong opposition in AFCON 2023, having lost two matches in succession: first 0-2 to the host, Elephants of Cote D'Ivoire, and another scandalous 2-4 loss to the National Thunder of Equatorial Guinea, leaving them with a six-goal deficit.
The Djurtus of Guinea-Bissau will surely seek to avoid a fourth consecutive Africa Cup of Nations group stage exit when they take on Nigeria at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium.
Djurtus cannot end in the automatic qualification spots after losing to Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea but could progress as one of the best third-placed sides by defeating unbeaten Nigeria in the final round of matches in Group A.
The Coach of the Super Eagles, Peseiro, will lead Nigeria to come face-to-face with the only team to have beaten his Super Eagles in a competitive match since he took the reins of the three-time African champions 20 months ago.
With four points from their first two matches, including a morale-pumping victory over the host nation and one of the favorites, the Eagles are walking with springs in their steps at their Pullman Hotel Abidjan and at their training sessions at the École Nationale de la Police. But Peseiro cautions that the work is not yet done and there is an utmost need for level heads.
“We have to forget that we defeated the host nation. There is a lot more work to be done. We want to be here for the long haul,” he said.
Peseiro won his first two competitive games with the Super Eagles, a 2-1 defeat of Sierra Leone in Abuja and a record-breaking international win of 10-0 against Sao Tome and Principe in Agadir, Morocco in June 2022.
However, the Wild Dogs stepped on Nigeria soil and pipped the Eagles 1-0 in an AFCON 2023 qualifier.
Nigeria repaid the compliment a few days later in Bissau, but the Portuguese trainer says the Portuguese-speaking nation still owes him a clapback.
“We are not thinking about revenge, but we are here to top the group and they are in our sights. We must do what has to be done.
Guinea Bissau has no point and will play with freedom, and that is when a team becomes dangerous.”
Both teams clash at the Stade Félix Houphoüet-Boigny in central Abidjan.
In their other competitive games under Peseiro, the Eagles have defeated Sierra Leone 3-2 in Monrovia, beaten Sao Tome and Principe 6-0 in Uyo, drawn 1-1 with Lesotho and Zimbabwe in FIFA World Cup qualifiers, and drawn 1-1 with Equatorial Guinea while pipping Cote d’Ivoire 1-0 here at the AFCON.
The grudge match against the Djurtus, which will be Nigeria’s 100th match at the Africa Cup of Nations since a group phase encounter against Egypt in nearby Ghana in 1963, will see the Super Eagles finish top of Group A with a win, as long as Equatorial Guinea, also on four points, do not humiliate the host nation Cote d’Ivoire at an encounter holding simultaneously at the Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara in Ebimpe.
Coach José Santos Peseiro insisted on Sunday that despite looking good for a spot in the Round of 16 with their four points following the defeat of host nation Cote d’Ivoire on Thursday, Nigeria will not take their feet off the pedal when they clash with Guinea Bissau on Monday evening.
“We defeated Cote d’Ivoire, but that is already in the past. We know that in football, what counts is the moment. We must temper our confidence and put in more work as required. We must not rest.
“We want to take the first place, and for that, we must do battle. We must do what is necessary to accomplish our mission tomorrow,” Peseiro said at the pre-match conference at the Palais de la Culture in the Treichville area of Abidjan on Sunday.
“We have to forget that we defeated the host nation. There is a lot more work to be done. We want to be here for the long haul,” he told thenff.com after the press conference.