West Bromwich Albion of England defender, Semi Ajayi has declared that he and his colleagues in the Super Eagles will have to work harder in order to win this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, because no team has a divine right to clinch the title, megasportsarena.com reports.
Speaking against the backdrop of his sterling outing in the last group match against Guinea Bissau, the former Rotherham United of England versatile player admitted that the Eagles must stay on tip toes all through this Sunday’s round of 16 clash with Tunisia.
Although the Tunisians struggled to reach this stage of the championship and could only qualify for the knock-out stage as a third best side, after losing two matches against Mali and Gambia, Ajayi says they must not be ruled out.
Rather than take The Carthage Eagles for granted, the former Arsenal of England youth team captain, who joined Nigeria’s roster as a late call-up in place of injured Leon Aderemi Balogun, assured that they will keep their feet on the throttle all through Sunday’s fixture in Garoua.
He added that the Eagles must not get carried away with their 100% mark from their group matches and they must not underrate the struggling Tunisians, especially as the North Africans are currently rated above Nigeria in the FIFA ranking.
Statistics also show that both sides are even to a large extent, as Nigeria have met Tunisia 19 times across all competitions and matches in the past, with both sides on six wins apiece, while seven of those matches were drawn.
It is, however, different at AFCON level, as Nigeria have a 3-1 advantage and go into Sunday’s Battle of Eagles on the back of three successive wins in the group stage, making the three-time African champions firm favorites to advance to the quarter-finals.
Tunisia are largely disfavoured for this game, having managed only one win in Group F, losing their last game 1-0 against debuting Gambia, a day after Nigeria proved they have a good squad depth by beating Guinea-Bissau 2-0 despite eight changes to the starting lineup.
Eagles’ interim coach, Augustine Eguavoen’s decision to tinker his roster saw Ajayi, who played the opening game victory over Egypt as a substitute, step in again to replace Kenneth Omeruo and the former Flying Eagles’ invitee is aiming at another outing at AFCON 2021.
Having seen some upsets at the ongoing championship, with defending champions Algeria and four-time winners Ghana eliminated, after finishing bottom of their respective groups, Ajayi advised his teammates to show Tunisia respect, in order to avoid a shock loss as well.
Ajayi told NFF TV: “Absolutely, I one hundred percent believe in the guys that we have in this squad, we have an abundance of talent and definitely the potential to go all the way; but it is not about talking.
“We need to do it on the pitch, we need to stay focused and not get too carried away, we do that, stay humble and work hard hopefully we can achieve our potential.
“Honestly there is no one team that has a divine right to the AFCON. Everyone is concerned; we’ve already seen upsets happen.
“So, just because you have big names and big teams it’s the AFCON anyone can beat anyone so we have to show everyone respect and I’m sure other teams are showing us respect. We’ll see who wins.”