Nigeria’s Super Eagles have been knocked out of the ongoing 33rd Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after losing their Round 16 match to Tunisia yesterday.
Youssef Msakni was the hero of the match with his spectacular long-range effort in the second half proved to be the difference between the two perennial foes.
Super Eagles were reduced to ten men after second-half substitute Alex Iwobi was sent off in the 65th minute while another substitute, Sadiq Umar came closest to drawing the Super Eagles late on.
Nigeria dominated most of the possession in the first half but failed to make it count with no clear chance created.
The defeat came after President Muhammadu Buhari made a video call to the team, urging them to sustain their winning momentum at the competition following their 100 percent feat in the group stage.
The President, who had the Sports Minister Sunday Dare beside him while speaking to the players, mentioned Kelechi Iheanacho and Moses Simon by name and urged the team to continue making Nigerians happy by not only winning the second round match against Tunisia, but to eventually lift the trophy.
“I want to thank you for what you have done for the nation so far. You have to keep winning. Nigerians are proud of you,” President Buhari said.
“You have demonstrated patriotic zeal and a high level of discipline, determination and commitment in all the games you have played so far and that is why we all are happy with you.”
He had also assured the team of continued support. “The Government will continue to support you within available resources at our disposal.”
Nigeria expectedly started the strongest and had the first effort of the game when a fortuitous bicycle kick from Wilfred Ndidi went wide early on.
In the 10th minute, Tunisia, who were without seven of their players and the manager due to COVID-19, had the game’s only real chance in the opening 45 minutes but Nigeria’s defence was alert to clear from the line.
A very cautious start to the second match in the round of 16 ends with nothing to separate the two Eagles at the break.
Two minutes after the start of the second half, Tunisia took a shock lead after an Ola Aina mistake. Yourself Msakni took advantage, evaded a Nigerian defender before letting fly from outside the box a shot that goalkeeper Maduka Okoye parried into his net to give Tunisia a 1-0 lead.
The Carthage Eagles grew in confidence after that goal and took control of the game and therefor held on for the win to qualify for the last eight where they will face Burkina Faso who edged out Gabon 7-6 on penalties – after a 1-1 draw – in an epic round of 16 clash at the Limbe Stadium on Sunday evening.
The Stallions really should have won the game in regulation time, having enjoyed a lead established through Bertrand Traore for over an hour (and against a team which was reduced to 10 men), but the Panthers simply refused to be beaten and sent the game to extra time a penalty shootout which went nine rounds before they were finally put away.
Gabon created most of the early play, but did not fashion any clear chances with which to test Burkina Faso goalkeeper Herve Koffi.
The Stallions then won a debatable penalty on 14 minutes, with Issa Kabore’s powerful run down the right ended by a challenge from Sidney Obissa, who was adjudged to have pushed over the Burkinabe attacker by Moroccan referee Redouane Jiyed.
Bertrand Traore took the spot kick, but his left-footed shot rattled the crossbar and rebounded high into the air before being safely cleared from danger.