Nigeria’s Super Eagles and their Cameroonian counterparts will today at Alexandria Stadium, Egypt, go toe-to-toe in ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON)’s round of 16 tie that could well determine the fate both teams in the tournament.
Both teams finished runner –up in their respective groups despite being rated to top, and low fire power is a constant variable in both camps with only two goals in each team’s kitty.
Nigeria and Cameroon have both met six times in previous AFCON tournaments with Cameroon who are defending champions winning three, Nigeria winning two while there has been one draw. These perennial rivals will seek to upstage each other today.
The Super Eagles defeated Cameroon 2-1 in their last meeting at the AFCON, with Austin Okocha and John Utaka erasing Samuel Eto’o’s strike in Tunisia 2004.
Cameroon have had the upper hand against Nigeria in AFCON history, but Nigeria has won 13 of 22 encounters in all with the fierce neighbours at senior level, and humiliated the Indomitable Lions in the race to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
It is also on record that the Lions have not beaten the Super Eagles in regulation time since 27th August 1989, when an under-strength Nigeria side lost 0-1 in Yaounde in an Italia 1990 World Cup qualifier –two weeks after Samuel Okwaraji died in another World Cup qualifier against Angola in Lagos.
In 1984, in an entertaining AFCON final in Abidjan, Cameroon came from one goal down to defeat Nigeria 3-1, exhibiting the quality and experience that had made them unbeaten at the FIFA World Cup in Spain two years earlier. Four years later, at the same stage in Casablanca, the Lions were less convincing, as Nigeria lost following Mauritanian referee Idrissa Saar’s inexplicable decision to disallow a goal by Henry Nwosu in the first half, and then award a soft penalty to the Lions early in the second half. Again in the final, in 2000, it was even more controversial. A 2-2 draw in regulation and extra time was followed by a penalty shootout, during which Tunisian referee Mourad Daami controversially ruled out the kick by Victor Ikpeba that television replays later showed to have crossed the line behind goalkeeper Alioum Boukar.
Nigeria got some revenge in 2004, when Jay Jay Okocha spearheaded a comeback in a quarter final tie in Monastir, Tunisia that ended 2-1 in favour of Nigeria, and after waiting 13 years, the Eagles dismantled reigning African champions Cameroon 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Uyo before a 1-1 draw in Yaounde days later.
Today’s encounter at the 20,000 –capacity Alexandria Stadium will be a fight-to-finish, as both teams are undergoing some sort of restructuring in playing personnel and introspection on recent below-par performances.
While Nigeria appears to be seeing the last active days of Captain Mikel Obi on the international road, Cameroon have excluded big goal-poacher Vincent Aboubakar from this tournament altogether.
Yet, all things must fall nicely in place for the Super Eagles today as they seek a place in the tournament quarter finals, with young horses Alex Iwobi, Moses Simon, Samuel Chukwueze, Wilfred Ndidi, Ola Aina, Chidozie Awaziem and even the experienced Odion Ighalo aware they cannot afford to falter at this stage in their AFCON debut.
With Mikel injured and certain to be on the bench, the burden is on Ahmed Musa’s shoulders to rally the troop from the humiliation by Madagascar and launch offensive after offensive that will break down the traditionally –strong Lions rearguard.
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