AFCON 2023Q

Things Super Eagles boss Peseiro MUST know about Sao Tome, Jorginho and Sierra Leone

Sao Tome and Principe won their appeal against disqualification from the AFCON 2023 qualifiers, and will face Jose Peseiro's Super Eagles in Group A.

Nigeria will play Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Mauritius for a place at Cote d'Ivoire

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) have announced that the Super Eagles will now engage Sao Tome and Principe in their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, instead of Mauritius.

Sao Tome were thrown out of the qualifying series last month after Mauritius Football Association reported them to CAF Disciplinary Board for fielding an ineligible player.

Following their disqualification, the country's Football Association appealed to the CAF Appeals Board, and successfully won their bid for reinstatement.

The Super Eagles were, in April, originally drawn into Group A of the qualifying series alongside Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, and either Sao Tome & Principe or Mauritius.

But ahead of the daunting task against Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Sao Tome & Principe what must Nigerians, and the new Super Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro, know about these underdogs?

  • Head-to-head with Nigeria

In its existence, the men's senior national team of Sao Tome and Principe has only played 57 international matches. None of these games were ever played against the Super Eagles.

  • Previous AFCON qualification history

Their first attempt to qualify for an AFCON came against Togo ahead of the 2000 Ghana and Nigeria co-hosted tournament. It, however, ended in disappointment as they were thrashed 6-0 over two legs.

Since then, the story has remained the same as they either failed to qualify for subsequent AFCONs, withdrew from the qualifiers, or did not participate in the qualification process at all.

  • Players the Super Eagles must look out for

UDRA's midfielder Iniesta could play an important role for the Falcons when they take on the Super Eagles. He scored Sao Tome's only goal when they fell to a 3-1 defeat against Ghana during the 2021 AFCON qualifiers.

Jokceleny Fernandes 'Iniesta' Carvalho (4th from left) and the Sao Tome and Príncipe starting XI against Ghana in March 2021

Another important player for the Falcons is 34-year-old striker Luis Leal. Leal has scored 8 goals in 19 appearances for Sao Tome and is their all-time leading goalscorer.

  • Head-to-head with Nigeria

Nigeria and Guinea-Bissau have met only once in their history. At the recently-concluded 2021 AFCON in Cameroon.

The meeting saw the Super Eagles, easily come out tops thanks to second-half goals from Umar Sadiq and William Troost-Ekong.

The 2023 AFCON qualifying draw which saw both nations paired in Group A, will see the Super Eagles play the Djurtus for only the second, and third time, ever.

  • Previous AFCON qualification history

Since first qualifying for the 2017 AFCON, Guinea-Bissau has participated in every AFCON tournament: including the 2021 tournament in Cameroon.

They have since, escaped returning to the dark days of their football when they couldn't make it to major competitions.

  • A player the Super Eagles must look out for

For a winger like Jorginho, the Super Eagles must be wary and on alert at all times around him. The 26-year-old was instrumental in helping Guinea-Bissau, qualify for the 2021 AFCON by scoring against Eswatini and Congo in the qualifying series.

His talent has also seen him score in the UEFA Europa League while playing for CSKA Sofia and also play in the Champions League with Ludogorets.

He finished as a runner-up in the 2014 UEFA European Under-19 Championship when representing Portugal at the youth level. After signing at the age of 17, he progressed through the Manchester City development system before leaving in 2016.

  • Head-to-head with Nigeria

The Leone Stars are the most experienced in this group, in terms of history with the Super Eagles. From 1961 to date, Sierra Leone played Nigeria 16 times, winning just two games, drawing five and losing nine.

Their most recent away game at Nigeria, saw them come from four goals down, to draw 4-4 with the Super Eagles during the last AFCON qualifiers.

Sierra Leone have, unfortunately, failed to win a game against Nigeria since 2001. The last time they did was in a qualifying match ahead of the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

  • Previous AFCON qualification history

Having participated in Cameroon 2021: their first AFCON since 1996, and third-ever, Sierra Leone will be hoping they can as well, qualify for the Ivorian-hosted tournament.

Their golden period during the 1990s, saw them qualifying for both the 1994 and 1996 AFCON tournaments. They were, however, forced to withdraw from the next two editions due to the Sierra Leone Civil War.

  • Players the Super Eagles must look out for

Sierra Leone goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara was rated as one of the top 40 players who participated at the 2021 AFCON following his excellent performances against Algeria and Cote d'Ivoire.

While Kamara's shot-stopping abilities and sweeper-keeper style of play could be a concern for the Super Eagles, who have struggled to score in recent games, Alhaji Kamara could be even more of a nuisance.

The Randers striker was the engine behind Sierra Leone's unforgettable 4-4 comeback against Nigeria in Benin City, scoring two times despite coming into the game as a second-half substitute.

He also scored the Leone Stars' late equalizer in their 2-2 Group E draw with Cote d'Ivoire at the 2021 AFCON.

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