BY KUNLE SOLAJA
Super Eagles will be breaking new ground on Sunday if they beat Madagascar and also don’t concede any goal. It will be the first time the team will have a 100% mark and clean sheet in the group stage in their 18 participations in the tournament.
The closest to having a 100% pass mark was in 1976 when Nigeria won the first two matches before losing the third group game, 3-1 to Morocco.
Madagascar had never scored a goal against Nigeria in previous encounters, hence the Super Eagles should be desirous of a clean full mark after Sunday’s duel.
The closest to having such a 100% pass mark was in 2006 when they beat Ghana 1-0, Zimbabwe 2-0 and Senegal 2-1, conceding a goal in the group stage while getting the full nine points.
Also in 1976 Nigeria won the first two matches but lost the third group game, 3-1 to Morocco.
Perhaps the1992 edition in Senegal could be singled out. The Super Eagles had 100% in the group matches but conceded goals. That time, Super Eagles beat the hosts 2-1 and Kenya by the same margin. The 1992 and 1994 tournaments featured three teams per group and just two matches per team in the group stage.
In other years, Nigeria dropped points, even as hosts in 1980 and 2000. In 1980, the then Green Eagles conceded a goal in the opening game with Tanzania and played a goalless draw with Cote d’Ivoire in the second match.
The same was in 2000 as a massive 4-2 defeat of Tunisia in the opening game was followed by a goalless draw with Congo. In 1994 when the team won the cup for the second time, the opening 3-0 defeat of Gabon was followed with a barren outing with Egypt, thus ending a dream of perfect group stage.
In 2013 when Nigeria won, four points were dropped in the first two games with Burkina Faso and Zambia.