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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Not Covid-19, Eguavoen reveals reason for Awaziem’s Super Eagles absence

11:05 PM SGT 14/1/22
Chidozie Awaziem
The Turkey-based defender will miss the three-time African champions’ encounter against the Falcons of Jediane

Nigeria coach Augustine Eguavoen says Chidozie Awaziem has been out of action at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon because of an ankle injury and not Covid-19.

The Alanyaspor star was not included in the Super Eagles' squad that silenced Egypt in the opening game at the Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua.

More importantly, he was not present at the team’s training on Wednesday and Thursday as they prepare for Saturday’s fixture against Sudan.

That sparked insinuations that the former FC Porto man may have contracted Covid-19 – a rumour that was not confirmed, nor denied, the Super Eagles’ technical crew.

However, Eguavoen cleared the air on the player's absence during Friday’s pre-match conference ahead of their showdown with Sudan.

“Awazem is still down, he had an ankle injury as much as I know he will be back very soon,” said Eguavoen while replying to a question from GOAL.

The 56-year-old is not sure of Awaziem’s likely return date claiming that only the Super Eagles medics can determine that.

“Hopefully [he will be back] very soon, that’s beyond my control. I think the medical staff are here to certify him fit to get back on the pitch. That’s the much I can say about Awaziem.”

In his absence against the Pharaohs, the quartet of Ola Aina, William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo and Zaidu Sanusi held sway in the defence to shut out Mohamed Salah and his teammates.

Eguavoen also assured the assembled media that his team will not lose focus on the back of their result over the seven-time African kings.

“Going by past experience, this will be a serious guide. We are not losing guard on that,” he added.

“We know what has happened before now and that is what we are trying to protect against and the boys know this because any slip is not going to be good.”

Victory for Nigeria on Saturday would see them join hosts Cameroon in Round 16 with a match to spare.

For Burhan Tia’s – who held Guinea-Bissau to a 0-0 draw in their opening match – they would be hoping to upset the West Africans to brighten their chances of qualifying for the knockout phase.