Eight years after surrendering their WAFU Cup of Nations title in a bewildering upset at home to Togo, Nigeria will get a chance to exact some measure of revenge against Les Aigles.
The teams were drawn to face each other early in this year’s tournament, in a revised format that will see teams face each other in a high stakes knockout schedule.
Wednesday’s draw in Dakar, Senegal, decided the first eight fixtures for the first phase of knockout matches, with the winners of those matches progressing into the Cup phase of the competition while the losers will go into the Plate phase.
Each team is thus guaranteed at least two games when the event kicks off in Senegal in September.
Since the competition was revived in 2002, Nigeria have made it to three out of four finals, winning one and losing the other two, to Togo and Ghana respectively.
Prior to that, the Super Eagles had appeared in three out of six finals under the old competition banner, between 1977 and 1991, winning two. Only Côte d’Ivoire, with three wins, had a better record.
On the face of it, this would look like an intimidating record for the Nigerians against their Togolese opponents. Except… given Togo’s three wins against Nigeria in all competitions, two have come in this event.
The Togolese were 5-2 winners in the CEDEAO version of the tournament in 1983 and came away with a 2-2 draw two years later, before that stunning win in 2011.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr is thus mindful of the opposition, telling ESPN: “We have always to stay humble because every match is important and the opponents also want to win.
“I think the record you speak about is very important also and our young players must work hard to win.”
The Super Eagles will play their first match on the 29th against said Togolese, though the roster may be slightly different to what fans have come to expect from the men in green.
It is customary that the sides, Nigeria and most others, will primarily be made up of domestic-based players as the European season will already be on the go.
The tournament will run from 28 September till 13 October. All matches will take place at the Stade Lat Dior in the city of Thies.
The opening match will see hosts Senegal taking on Guinea Bissau. This will be followed by defending champions Ghana taking on Gambia on the same day.
The quarter-finals of both Cup and Plate competitions will take place from 3-6 October, with the semi-finals from 8-9 October.
The final of the Plate competition will take place on 12 October and the Cup final on 13 October.
Defending champions Ghana will take on The Gambia in the opening round. Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
First round fixtures
Senegal v Guinea-Bissau
Ghana v The Gambia
Nigeria v Togo
Morocco v Liberia
Mali v Niger
Ivory Coast v Cape Verde
Burkina Faso v Mauritania
Guinea v Benin