Nigeria vs Tunisia: Interesting stats to mull over before Round of 16 meeting

The Super Eagles do battle with a weakened North African side aiming to continue their impressive run at the finals.

Moses Simon (Nigeria)

Three games into the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), it is safe to suggest Nigeria have been the best team hitherto whilst having the best player at the finals in Moses Simon.

The Nantes wide attacker has put years of criticism in the green jersey behind him to flourish, completing more dribbles than any other player in the competition.

Nearly half of Simon’s 15 dribbles came in the Super Eagles’ 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau, where all seven attempted dribbles were successful against Baciro Cande’s team.

The three-time African champions face off with the Eagles of Carthage optimistic over their chances owing to an impressive run of performances and results at the finals and a commendable head-to-head record against the North Africans at AFCON.

Excluding shoot-outs, Nigeria are unbeaten in five encounters between both sides, winning three and playing out two stalemates. With the Super Eagles winning 12 of their last 14 games at the finals, Augustine Eguavoen’s team will relish the chance of claiming a 13th victory in 15.

So far at this year’s competition, the Super Eagles have had six different goal scorers — Kelechi Iheanacho, Samuel Chukwueze, Simon, Taiwo Awoniyi, Umar Sadiq and William Troost-Ekong — which is more than other side participating at the biennial showpiece.

Interestingly, the Nigerians have accrued Expected Goals (xG) of 7.1, outdoing every side but Morocco whose xG is similar to the West African nation’s. With only six goals scored in Cameroon, Eguavoen’s team are slightly underperforming their expected numbers, a situation they strive to change in the knockout rounds.

Awoniyi’s profligate finishing perhaps contributes to this slight underperformance, with three big chances missed outdoing every player at the finals so far.

Interestingly, the Super Eagles have netted the first goal in all three games at the showpiece, winning all those fixtures when they edge in front. Conversely, the Tunisians have been beaten twice at the finals on the occasions they have not netted the first goal—1-0 defeats by Mali and The Gambia.

Having said that, the timing of Gambia’s late, late stoppage-time winner gave the North Africans little time to respond, somewhat undermining the stat.

Defensively, Nigeria’s Expected Goals Against (xGA) of 2 is bettered by only two sides at the finals—Senegal (1.6) and Morocco (1.8), while Tunisia’s xGA reads 2.2, beaten only by Nigeria, Morocco and Senegal.

Maduka Okoye and stand-in Francis Uzoho have faced a combined 19 shots — no side has conceded more shots — demonstrating their quality at the back, or perhaps the fact the opponents faced were not really up to scratch.

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