Nigeria will go against seven-time African champions, Egypt in the first of their back-to-back 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna on Friday before travelling to Alexandria for the return leg four days later.
The Super Eagles are two points behind the Pharaohs' six points in Group G and need at least a victory from the double-header to stay in contention for the group's automatic ticket to Gabon.
Regarded a battle between familiar foes with both sides having met 15 times previously, Nigeria has emerged victors seven times against four by the Pharaohs, whilst four failed to produce a winner.
In an interview with CAFOnline.com, Super Eagles' interim coach Samson Siasia admitted that history is on his team's side and remains optimistic that his charges would get the job done come Friday before hitting Alexandria on March 29.
Siasia, on a second spell at the helm of the three-time African champions, after failing to guide the West Africans to the finals of the 2012 AFCON, said matter-of-factly that he would bring his experience to bear against the Pharaohs. He insists that Nigeria cannot afford to successively miss out on the flagship continental championship after sitting out of the 2015 edition in Equatorial Guinea.
CAFOnline.com caught up with Siasia in Abuja ahead of the Super Eagles departure to Kaduna for Friday's match. Below are excerpts of his interview;
The D-Day against Egypt is almost here. What are your thoughts about this crucial AFCON qualifier?
First and foremost, we know this is going to be a difficult game therefore we need to have a good preparation. We don't have much time left but we just need to know how to play against them. Victory in Kaduna on Friday would put us in good frame of mind for the return fixture in Alexandria. We are very hopeful but we must also work very hard.
Nigeria has won seven of the last 15 encounters against Egypt. Would history again count in favour of Super Eagles on Friday?
I feel strongly that history is on our side against Egypt; though we know that this is going to be a crucial match. This is an important match for us and we know we have to win the game in Kaduna to put our AFCON campaign back on track.
Nigerians are used to seeing their Super Eagles play on Saturday or Sunday; will playing on Friday not affect turn out of the fans and psyche of the players?
I have no doubt that Nigerians fans are stoutly behind us because they (Egyptians) have been saying they can't lose to us in Kaduna. We are expecting a full house at the stadium and on our part as team we are going to do our best. We are going to see a new Nigerian team against Egypt on Friday. We are going to see a team that would play from the heart.
Do you have sleepless night over any Egyptian player?
We don't want to worry about any particular player rather we must be worried about how they play as a team. We have video tapes of their past matches which we have been studying and we already know the kind of players they have - attacking-minded. I'm not going to tell you the plans we have in store for them. I can't be talking about how we are going to play but we shall be ready for them on Friday.
Although this is a two-match assignment for you for now; how do you feel about managing the Super Eagles after your last experience?
It feels good and I'm happy that I have the privilege to train the team after my last experience. I was in charge for 11 months the last time and we didn't even lose a match; but this job is all about hiring and firing. My focus is on these two matches in Kaduna and Alexandria and I'm very hopeful that everything would turn out well.
Source: all africa