Group B favourites Nigeria and Guinea clash at the Alexandria Stadium on Wednesday evening with a place in the second round at stake.
While 2013 champions Nigeria got off their campaign with a nervy 1-0 win over debutants Burundi last Saturday, Guinea were held to a 2-2 draw by the other first-timers in the group Madagascar and face a must win scenario against the Super Eagles.
The Paul Put coached side desperately need the three points to boost their chances of progressing to the knockout phases of the competition and coming up against a Nigerian side that has boosted confidence from an opening day win, the tide will be up for them to sustain.
Tactically, Guinea will have to prepare for a fast paced Nigerian attack that has Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and Villareal’s Samuel Chukwueze on either wing. The two were Nigeria’s main attacking axis in the first game against Burundi.
Put might make a few changes to his squad but the biggest one will be to start star midfielder Naby Keita who came off the bench against Madagascar. Keita has been nursing an injury since last May but Put believes he will be ready to start.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr on his end will be convinced to hand a starting role to Odion Ighalo and Ahmed Musa who stepped off the bench to change the game against Burundi with Ighalo scoring the winner.
Shehu Abdullahi who was stretchered off against Burundi is not yet ready to come back to action while striker Samuel Kalu who collapsed in training last Friday is waiting for final clearance from the doctors.
In a match that they need to win to assure themselves of a last 16 spot, Rohr will not take gambles with the squad he will send out to do duty.
The last meeting between these two sides was in October 2011 in a qualifier for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations when Guinea held the Super Eagles to a 2-2 draw and sent them crashing out. Guinea had won the first leg in Conakry 1-0.
For Guinea coach Put, he has memories of meeting against a Nigerian side as he played them twice with Burkina Faso in 2013 when they won the title. They were in the same group where they drew 1-1 and both went all the way to the final, Nigeria winning 1-0.
What they said
Nigeria coach Gernot Rhor
It will be a very important match for us because we have three points and if we win, we will already be through. It will be a decisive game for us more than them because even if they lose they will have a chance to go through as one of the best number threes.
My problem in the moment is injuries; we had two players who will be out; Collins (Jamilu) and Shiehu Abdullahi will not be in the match tomorrow and my problem at the moment is to know how we will replace them tactically.
Guinea coach Paul Put
We will always try to win every game but we have to be realistic; we are facing a tough team and everyone has to be on top of their game when we face Nigeria.
It’s a nice memory having played them in a final with Burkina Faso but that is in the past now. It is always a nice feeling to play Nigeria because it is one of the biggest teams in Africa. It is exciting to the players and everyone is focused.
Naby has trained well and it will be a decision to be made whether he starts or not
Guinea player Siaka Sylla:
It will not be an easy match against Nigeria. They are a very strong team but we are focused to make a good game and get victory at the end of the match. We know that it is a tough outing for us and we have to win, but that will not put pressure on us.
It is always a motivation to play a big team and we have to be very careful especially in defense because they have fast strikers and we need to be concentrated on every detail of the game.