Fresh off the back of an opening-day victory over Sierra Leone, Nigeria head out to the Adrar Stadium to face Sao Tome & Principe in Group A of the AFCON qualifiers on Monday.
The Falcons, who are currently on a run of 13 consecutive defeats across all competitions, will be looking to end this dry spell and get their campaign up and running.
Sao Tome & Principe kicked off their hunt for a first-ever Africa Cup of Nations appearance on the back foot yet again as they suffered a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Guinea-Bissau in Thursday’s group opener.
After falling behind to Edmilson Viegas’s opener, Alfa Semedo restored parity in the 40th minute to level matters heading into half time, before Zidane Banjaqui, Jorginho and a brace from Zinho Gano saw the Djurtus cruise to an emphatic victory.
Sao Tome & Principe have now lost 13 consecutive games across all competitions, including each of their six outings in the 2022 AFCON qualifiers, where they scored just three goals and shipped 16 to finish rock bottom in Group C.
Adriano Euseboi’s side last tasted victory way back in March 2016, when Luis Leal struck twice in the final seven minutes as they saw off Libya 2-1 on home turf in Group of of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Elsewhere, the Super Eagles of Nigeria got their 2023 AFCON qualification campaign off to a fine start as they came from behind to edge out a resilient Sierra Leone side 2-1 on home turf.
In an action-packed affair at the Abuja National Stadium, Everton midfielder Alex Iwobi struck shortly after the quarter-hour mark to cancel out Jonathan Morsay’s 11th-minute opener before Victor Osimhen struck in the 41st minute to complete the turnaround.
Prior to that, Jose Peseiro’s side were on a five-game winless streak across all competitions — claiming two draws and losing three in that time — a run which saw them miss out on the upcoming World Cup after failing to defeat Ghana over two legs.
Nigeria head into Monday’s game unbeaten in each of their last seven Africa Cup of Nations qualification games, including each of their six outings in the 2022 qualifiers where they picked up four wins and two draws to finish top of Group L.
While the three-time African champions will look to keep this fine run alive and kicking, they have struggled for results on the road in recent outings, picking up one draw and losing two of their last three away games since a 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau back in January.
Twenty-five-year-old Viegas opened his account for the national team with his strike against Guinea-Bissau and we expect the Resende forward to spearhead the attack once again.
He should be joined in the final third by 30-year-old Valter Rocha and Bolivia-based forward Leal, while Clube Oriental de Lisboa man Joel Neves could push for a starting role in midfield.
Despite their poor defensive performance against the Djurtus, Eusebio should stick to his centre-back pairing of Vava Pequeno and former Praia Cruz man Ivonaldo Viegas, with Anastacia Braganca starting in goal.
Meanwhile, Iwobi scored his first goal for Nigeria since November 2020 with his leveller against Sierra Leone last time out and the former Everton man should retain his place at the centre of the park alongside Rangers man Joe Aribo.
Osimhen maintained his red-hot goalscoring form and the Napoli striker should spearhead the attack on Monday, with the duo of Samuel Chukwueze and Moses Simon offering support on either flank.
Semi Ajayi and William Troost-Ekong have both started each of the Super Eagles’ last three outings and should partner once again, alongside Ola Aina and Calvin Bassey in the back four.
Sao Tome & Principe possible starting lineup:
Braganca; Soares, I Viegas, Pequeno, Nazare; Neves, Aldair, Tinho, E Viegas; Rocha, Leal
Nigeria possible starting lineup:
Uzoho; Aina, Ajayi, Troost-Ekong, Bassey; Aribo, Etebo, Iwobi; Chukwueze, Osimhen, Simon