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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: 'Nigeria must tread with caution' – Amuneke warns Super Eagles not to get carried away by title talks

23:31 GMT+3 14/01/2022
Troost-Ekong Nigeria Egypt 2022
Victory over the Pharaohs has inspired talks that the Eagles will conquer Africa, but the former Barcelona forward has warned against complacency

Nigeria great Emmanuel Amuneke has warned the Super Eagles to "tread with caution" amidst talks that they are favourites to win the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

A 30th-minute strike from Kelechi Iheanacho inspired Augustine Eguavoen’s men to a 1-0 win over Egypt in their opening Group D match on Tuesday.

Prior to the encounter, the North Africans were tipped to come out victorious owing to Nigeria’s poor preparations for Cameroon 2021 and the fact that they were without key players like Victor Osimhen, Odion Ighalo and Peter Etebo.

Against all odds, the opposite was the case and the three-time African champions have now been tipped to win a fourth crown on February 6.

Nevertheless, the former Tanzania coach – who is a member of Caf’s technical study group at Afcon 2021 – has warned Eguavoen and his players never to be complacent as there are other teams who are equally as good as they are.

“We must tread with caution because there are other good teams also,” Amuneke told GOAL.

“The most important thing for the Super Eagles is to win their games, pick points and it allows them to progress.

“It will be unfair to make noise about title ambitions because there are other teams as good as we are.

“Well, the most important thing is that the players are excited, you could see that spirit in them, they want to do something for themselves and I hope they will have that continuity.”

Heading to the game against Nigeria, Egypt were unbeaten in each of their last 16 group matches at the African football showpiece with 12 wins and four draws.

Their last defeat at that stage dated back to Tunisia 2004, when they crumbled 2-1 to Algeria.

Amuneke analysed what the 2013 African champions did right against Carlos Queiroz’s men and assured that the Egyptians would make it to the knockout phase notwithstanding the loss.

“The good thing about the game [against Egypt] was that Nigeria went in with a plan and they were able to execute it very well,” he continued.

“When you look at the game from the first half, you would see that the Egyptians tried to build from the back, but they found it difficult to connect with their strikers.

“At the end of the day, that is what football is all about because when you go to a match with a plan and you execute it, at the end of the day, you pick the maximum points. That was what Nigeria did.

“It is not always easy when teams with a pedigree like Nigeria and Egypt come up against one another, everyone wants to show their pride. I know Egypt will qualify but I wish both teams all the best.”