Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: ‘Nigeria the team to beat’- Olatunji-Okuku downplays Tunisia threat

18:05 EAT 22/01/2022
Kelechi Iheanacho, Super Eagles - Nigeria
Augustine Eguavoen’s men are expected to stroll past the Carthage Eagles when both teams square up against one another on Sunday night

Nigeria are the team to beat at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and will be a "tough nut to crack" for Tunisia in Sunday’s Round of 16 clash, according to seasoned administrator Samuel Olatunji-Okuku.

The Super Eagles are gunning for a fourth African diadem in Cameroon, however, they must negotiate their way past the Carthage Eagles to reach the quarter-final.

While the West Africans won all three group games to finish as Group D winners, the North Africans qualified as one of the best four third-placed teams.

As the two teams renew their rivalry at the Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua, the Tripple 44 Academy boss talks up the chances of Augustine Eguavoen’s men against the 2004 African kings.

“Although the previous encounters between both nations have been so close, I want to believe that Nigeria are the team to beat at the moment,” Olatunji-Okuku told GOAL.

“We will be a tough nut to crack for the Tunisians and in my own opinion, we have nothing to worry about because we have the talent.

“Also, we have a coach who understands what he’s doing and for the first time in years, I see Super Eagles play the brand of football we were known for.”

Tunisia have just a single win in their last four matches in all competitions, whereas Nigeria are unbeaten in their last six outings (five wins and one draw).

Olatunji-Okuku also suggested the tactical approach the Super Eagles may consider in a bid to prevent Mondher Kebaier’s men from causing an upset.

“I expect the coach to tell them 'look, we are not going to focus on how anyone plays, we will be arrogant with the way we want to play' because we have individual and collective talents to do so,” he continued.

“The other day, he was pressing with three men up front, and it was really easier for us to win the ball high up the pitch to the pace of [Taiwo] Awoniyi.

“Sometimes, Eguavoen adopts a 4-2-3-1 system while on a low block. I’ll advise against this against the Tunisians due to their creativity in the final third.

“I just hope Super Eagles throw the first punch and press them high to win the ball back as high as we can. whoever scores first might have a higher chance, but I have no doubt that Eguavoen and his men would do justice to this tie.

“For me, there is absolutely nothing to fear in this counter, this is one of the proudest moments to be a Nigerian again.”

Should Nigeria qualify for the quarter-final, they will square up against either Burkina Faso or Gabon for a place in the semi-final.