The experience of Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations has been a little bit turbulent. They lost 2-0 to Madascar in their last group stage game, leading many to worry about their performance. Still, despite the loss, the Super Eagles were through to the round of 16. Here, they faced the indomitable lions of Cameroon.
The match was a bit of a redemption battle. Many doubted the Eagles’ capability to come out with a win after the display against Madagascar. So, they had everything to prove.
Ideally, any football-loving Nigerian would cringe at the mere mention of Cameroon. They have handed our country the most heartbreaks at the AFCON, and this meant that our boys had to work harder on this one.
It was more than a game, and the Eagles had to win in order to provide more hope for the country’s citizens at home. As expected, coach Gernot Rohr made tweaks to his starting XI. Names like Alex Iwobi, Wilfried Ndidi, Kenneth Omeuro, and Daniel Akpeyi all made returns after sitting out the Madagascar clash.
The match started out a bit dull and there were few chances indeed. However, Odion Ighalo sprang up in the 19th minute to give the country the lead. Ighalo’s goal came from a poorly-cleared free kick. Omeuro got his hand on the loose ball, and he crossed it to the attacker from close range.
However, the Cameroonians fought back and got themselves two goals before the half time break. Stephen Bahoken bagged the equaliser in the 41st minute, and Clinton Njie delivered a masterful solo effort for a 44th minute goal. Cameroon 2, Nigeria 1 at the break.
The Eagles were in murky waters at this point. They’ve had issues with coming back from behind in the past, but Odion Ighalo came through again with his second of the night. While the Eagles weren’t discernibly better in the second 45 minutes, Ighalo was on fire. Ahmed Musa put him on goal in the 62nd minute, and he kept his cool for the leveler.
A mere three minutes later, Ighalo was at the tick of the action once again. He became the provider this time, seeking out an oncoming Alex Iwobi for the decisive goal.
Still, the Cameroonians asked questions. Nigeria’s defenders had to be on top of their game to handle the pressure, and they did so well. In the end, the Eagles held on to their nerves and bagged the win.
The result meant that Nigeria will face South Africa in the quarter-finals. The Bafana Bafana pulled out one of the tournament’s biggest upsets, beating hosts Egypt 1-0 in their tie.
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