CAIRO – Super Eagles defender Jamilu Collins believes it would be wrong for fans to think that Algeria represents an easier proposition for Nigeria than Ivory Coast would have in the semifinals of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Nigeria spanked the Desert Foxes of Algeria 3-0 in Lagos to lift their very first AFCON title in 1980 and have generally found the North Africans agreeable opponents in the AFCON with their two most recent meetings ending in slim 1-0 wins for the West Africans in the group stages in 2002 and the third-place match in 2010.
Both sides also faced off during the qualifying series of the 2018 FIFA World Cup with Nigeria prevailing 3-1 at home before forcing Algeria to a 1-1 draw in Algiers.
By contrast, however, Ivory Coast have historically troubled Nigeria on the continent even though the Super Eagles beat a star-studded Ivorian side on their way to winning the title in 2013.
And Collins who made his long-awaited AFCON debut in the quarterfinals against South Africa having picked up an injury on the eve of Nigeria’s tournament opener against Burundi which kept him out of the group stages, says either team would still have represented a tough match-up for the Super Eagles and that the monumental effort Algeria put in to knock out the 2015 champions proves that Nigeria is in for an “interesting” and “tough game” in the semifinals.
“Every team has its quality,” the Paderborn of Germany left-back told busybuddiesng.com ahead of Sunday’s semifinal clash against Algeria at the Cairo International Stadium.
“So, Ivory Coast has their quality, Algeria have their quality, Nigeria have their quality. As you can see the game (between Algeria and Ivory Coast) was tough; it ended in a penalty to tell you that it wasn’t an easy game for both sides.
“So, it will be the same tough game and I hope we are going to put a good show in the arena that day – Nigeria and Algeria – and I hope we are going to make the game interesting and of course we are looking for victory.”
Sunday’s semifinal opponents represent the first North African opposition for the Super Eagles at the 2019 AFCON so far, and Collins says, he expects to see an Algerian team that allies technical know-how with power but hopes that the Super Eagles would prevail at the end of the day.
“Of course, it’s going to be a tough game. Algeria is a good technical team [and] they are strong so, I think for us, we just have to be focused, train hard through this week and wait for this game and we’ll play to the instruction of the coach and hopefully, we will do our best and try to get the result for our country.”
Having being forced to observe proceedings from the sidelines through the group stages and in the round of 16, the 24-year old said he was happy to have finally made his debut at the AFCON and enjoined Nigerians to continue to support the team in their quest to land a fourth AFCON title for the country.
“First, I feel really, really excited about it and I was happy to be in the team to get the victory against South Africa in an important game for us. We saw [it] through and we are in the semifinals now and we are hoping to have a better game than South Africa and hopefully, we will get it.
“My message to the fans in Nigeria and all over the world is to just keep praying for the team. Their support and prayers mean a lot to us and they shouldn’t stop they should just believe in us and keep praying and we will give good result to them.”