Nigeria have reclaimed their Fear Factor to become AFCON favourites

Former captain Jay-Jay Okocha says Nigeria have reclaimed their "fear factor" two wins into their Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign.

Nigeria claimed a convincing win over Egypt, and then cruised through their second game against Sudan, emerging 3-1 winners.

In both games, the Super Eagles looked a rejuvenated side. They were solid in defence and quick on attack. This was reminiscent of the days when the Super Eagles were Africa's top-ranked team and feared by sides within and outside the continent.

In recent years, the team have fallen short of those glory days and have suffered some embarrassing results, including a stunning home loss in World Cup qualifying to Central African Republic -- a side ranked 124th in the world at the time.

The last two displays in Cameroon have not only changed the perception, but have their fans falling in love with their team again.

"The fear factor is back," Okocha told ESPN.

"You see how we won our first two matches convincingly, so I think we remain a big threat in this tournament."

Okocha's view is shared by former Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan, who says the Super Eagles have played themselves into the position of favourites.

"As of today Nigeria stands out as the team that has the will to conquer all opposition going by what has happened in the matches so far," Gyan told ESPN.

"Every other potential winner of the tournament seems to be playing with too much caution and this explains why most of the matches have not been impressive.

"But when you look at Nigeria, they showed the character of a potential champion, considering the way they dominated Egypt all through the 90 minutes."

Nigeria coach Austin Eguavoen, who has previously shrugged off suggestions of being title favourites, finally claimed it after their 3-1 win over Sudan.

"Many people have talked about Nigeria being favourites, so we will claim it," Eguavoen told ESPN after after beating Sudan.

"It is not about saying game by game now, there is power in the tongue so we will claim it.

"With qualification secured, but also with a win on our minds, I think we will give a couple of players he chance to play against Guinea Bissau."

In 2019, Nigeria found themselves in the exact same position. After claiming two wins from their opening two games against Burundi and Guinea, Gernot Rohr made five changes to his starting XI of the final group game against Madagascar.

It did not end well.

The minnows shocked the Super Eagles with a 2-0 win, and ended up winning the group, condemning the Eagles to a difficult round of 16 matchup against bitter rivals Cameroon. Although they eventually came through that test, Eguavoen is understandably cautious about making similar wholesale personnel decisions.

"It is important for us to sustain the winning mentality while we keep our heads on our shoulders. Just as I told the boys after the match against Egypt, we are yet to win anything here except points. Guinea Bissau need the three points because they have only one so far and we must be prepared for a massive fight," Eguavoen said.

"If we let down our guard, we could be punished, and that would not be good for the team's psychology. We will go for the three points."

The Nigeria coach is right to be wary. Guinea Bissau drew 0-0 with Sudan in their first match, losing a penalty awarded to them late in the game, and they pushed Egypt all the way even after falling to a Mohamed Salah goal. They should have shared the spoils with the Pharaohs, but were contentiously denied late in the game.

Eguavoen will also be trying to make history. In 2006, he became the first and so far only coach to take Nigeria to maximum points in the Nations Cup group stage. He could well become the first man to repeat the accomplishment.

Meanwhile, former South Africa international Teko Modise says the current iteration of Super Eagles are quite capable of helping their manager over the line in his quest for history.

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"The Super Eagles side that I played against had a lot of big names, but the guns had no bullets. The ones that are playing now are more promising and more dangerous than the ones I played against, so they are capable of winning," Modise told ESPN.

"They carry a big threat. I think there is a lot of depth in the team, but they haven't been tested yet, especially in that second game. But after the group stages, I think that is where the depth that they have will come in.

Nigeria now have a full deck to play with after defender Chidozie Awaziem, who has not been involved due to illness, resumed training with the team this weekend. But it is doubtful if he will make the team.