BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
As it was last year at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations played in Cameroon, the Nigeria Super Eagles will again play against Guinea Bissau in their last group match at the same competition holding next month in Cote d’Ivoire.
Thus, the 22 January 2024 match at the Stade Félix-Houphouët-Boigny, Abidjan will be a match of familiar foes as both also met in the qualifying series in Abuja and Bissau.
Undoubtedly, Guinea Bissau gave Nigeria a big scare in what ordinarily could had been a stroll in the park.
The country previously known as Portuguese Guinea shocked the Super Eagles with a 1-0 defeat in Abuja before the Nigerian side laboured to a 1-0 revenge days later in Bissau courtesy of a 30th minute penalty kick.
Giving the Super Eagles a tough time in the qualifying series has given Guinea Bissau the drive to dream. They are grouped along with the other Guinea
While this is Nigeria’s 20th Africa Cup of Nations, Guinea Bissau are in the competition for the fourth time and had never made it past the group stage.
They now dream dreams, possibly because of their performance against Nigeria in the qualifying round as well as the fluctuating forms of the Super Eagles who lack consistency in performance.
Guinea Bissau’s key player is Mama Samba Balde. He scored the 29th minute goal with which they beat Nigeria in Abuja earlier this year.
He remains the country’s best export playing for Olympique Lyonnais, commonly referred to as simply FC Lyon. Balde is an explosive winger who is comfortable on the ball with both feet and possesses great abilities of eliminating his opponents.
The Nigerian defence line will attest to this if they reflect on their qualifying match of 24 March in Abuja.
Baldé possesses a great physique which works to his advantage in tight duels and highly physical defenders. In addition to his crossing ability, he also has a knack for goals when in good goalscoring positions. Nigeria Francis Uzoho will not forgive him as he blasted into Nigeria’s goal in the 24 March 2023 match in Abuja.