BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
So far so good. The Nigerian national football team has never had it better than their current run as they without much stress to their followers loftily flew into knock out stage of the Africa Cup of Nations.
They remain in their ‘home’ ground at Garoua where they will play the Round of 16 match on Sunday against yet to be known opponents.
Their opponents will emerge this evening after the conclusion of Groups E and F matches. The arithmetic as well as permutations are complex.
With third-place Malawi in Group B already assigned to face Morocco, the Group C winners, Nigeria will face any of the third placed teams in Groups E and F.
Currently, Sierra Leone with two points are third in Group E. But their position and total points could change after their final group match with Equatorial Guinea who on three points are second.
Among the six third placed teams at the moment, Sierra Leone are fifth, meaning that they are out of contention except they garner points in today’s match.
If Sierra Leone, draw specialists should again draw with Equatorial Guinea, they will have three points which could improve to five in the event of victory.
The other group match which is also crucial to Nigeria is the clash of Cote d’Ivoire and Algeria.
A win for Algeria could push the defending champions to either second or third. If they finish third, they are likely to face Nigeria.
In Group F, Tunisia who have three points in a keenly contested group are already assured of a top three finish. That could also put them in direct clash with Nigeria on Sunday.
So as it is, any of the following are likely to face Nigeria on Sunday – Algeria, Tunisia, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea.
Runners up to Nigeria in Group D, Egypt are also in the waiting for the Group E winners where a three-horse race of Gambia, Mali and Tunisia is on.
While Nigeria and Egypt as well as Cameroon are still awaiting their opponents, the confirmed fixtures for the Round of 16 are:
- Burkina Faso vs Gabon in Limbe on Sunday
- Senegal vs Cape Verde in Bofoussam on Tuesday
- Morocco vs Malawi in Yaounde on Tuesday.