• Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

BALLPOINT: IT IS NOW OR NEVER, SUPER EAGLES!

The Moustached Journalist says;

Saturday’s firecracker between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions at the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan was absolutely one of the most anticipated Round of 16 clashes at the ongoing 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Côte d’Ivoire, featuring one of the fiercest rivalries in African football.

Super Eagles midfielder Frank Onyeka refused to be intimidated by anyone in the battle of the fittest with the Indomitable Lions. Photo Credit: Culled from The Athletic.

With a combined eight AFCON titles between them — three for Nigeria, however, three out of the five trophies won by Cameroon were against the Super Eagles during the tournament’s finals in 1984, 1988 and 2000. Meanwhile, both teams harbour a profound hunger for more success with emphasis on their knockout round match seen as a fresh battle and more than a rivalry.

This game is the eighth encounter between Nigeria and Cameroon at Africa’s biggest sports event both sides radiate confidence, each team firmly believing they possess the prowess to secure victory and advance to the quarter-finals of this tournament.

The Reigning African Footballer of the Year bust out Oumar Gonzalez in a rumble chase, leading to that battled assist for Ademola Lookman’s first of his two goals against Cameroon. Photo Credit: Culled from Evening Standard.

Coincidentally, this was the same pitch Cameroon emerged victorious in the AFCON final over the then-Green Eagles of Nigeria that was led by the late national team captain and one-time coach Stephen Keshi 40 Years ago.

While historical encounters and performances in the group stage have been at the forefront of pre-match discussions, Nigeria has both played in (41) and won (23) more matches in the knockout stages of this competition than any other nation.

Captain Fantastic William Troost-Ekong edging past his marker in a duel over an aerial ball. Photo Credit: Culled from Eurosport.

Moreover, the three-time African champions have won seven of their last nine matches at the AFCON finals with their only defeat being a 1-0 loss against the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia at this stage in the 2021 edition held in Cameroon. In addition to, the Super Eagles have defeated the Indomitable Lions in recent times having won four of their last five meetings at this tournament.

Unsurprisingly, the Super Eagles Head Coach, José Peseiro unveiled a replica of the starting line-up in the game between the hosts Ivory Coast ahead of the 34th AFCON must-win second round clash with Cameroon. With assistant captain William Troost-Ekong returns to the team to face Rigobert Song-led Indomitable Lions at the 33,000-capacity stadium situated in the capital city of Ivory Coast.

The Nigeria’s Super Eagles starting line-up in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Round of 16 tie against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. Photo Credit: Culled from The Guardian.

The Portuguese tactician kept faith with the 3-4-3 formation, with Stanley Nwabali in goal but was later replaced with Francis Uzoho, after picking an injury in the 80th minute of the clash. In the defensive combination was the trio of William Troost-Ekong, Semi Ajayi, and Calvin Bassey, while on both flanks as wingbacks were Ola Aina and Zaidu Sanusi who was subbed off for Kenneth Omeruo ten minutes into second-half stoppage time.

Despite shaking off the injury he copped against Equatorial Guinea in the opening group game, Alhassan Yusuf was only an unused substitution for the consecutive time. Frank Onyeka who has been able to maintain composure in the absence of the 23-year-old Royal Antwerp midfielder, started in the centre midfield alongside Alex Iwobi who has been below par with his assigned role on the field of play.

“Thou shalt trample on serpents, and not get stung nor hurt,” Nigeria’s gathering in a team talk prior to kick-off in their knockout round match at the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan. Photo Credit: Culled from Afrik-Foot.

Ademola Lookman in the company of Moses Simon and Victor Osimhen led the Super Eagles’ attacking force, butsubstituted for the duo of Bright Osayi-Samuel and Paul Onuachu in the dearth of full-time.

The West African side thought they had broken the deadlock after Semi Ajayi appeared to have given Nigeria a 1-0 lead in the 9th minute. However, it was subjected to a VAR review and was ruled out for offside by the centre referee Rédouane Jiyed.

While Semi Ajayi’s 9th-minute opener was under review before it was chopped off for an offside by the Moroccan referee Rédouane Jiyed. Photo Credit: Culled from CAF Online.

Nigeria were the better side while Cameroon barely shown any threats in forms of goal bound, attacks and shots on target at halftime to a strong and well-organized Super Eagles defence who had only conceded once in the group stages. Unarguably, José Peseiro’s men effectively kept the Indomitable Lions at arm’s length, controlling both play and tempo.

Many a times Nigeria were closed to taking the lead but were not lucky to have the ball in the back of the net. Despite a sense of clear connection among the Cameroonian defenders, Victor Osimhen managed to capitalise on their ball-playing error when they tried to push forward with play from the back.

A Victor Osimhen’s remarkable pass setting up Ademola Lookman to break the deadlock in the 36th minute to give Nigeria the lead before the break. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

The 25-year-old marksman pressured Oumar Gonzalez and snatched the ball from him meters away from the centre half, leading to a pass that set up Ademola Lookman’s opener in the 36th minute to give Nigeria a 1-0 lead.

The Super Eagles dominated play throughout the first half, ensuring goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali had no saves to make. Despite the Indomitable Lions having a large chunk of ball possession, failed to register any shots on target heading into the tunnel at the break.

Nigerian shotstopper Stanley Nwabali was forced off after suffering an injury in a collision with Cameroonian forward Georges-Kevin N’Koudou. Photo Credit: Culled from Pulse Sports Nigeria.

At the other end of the scale, Rigobert Song’s side continued in the second half, transforming the game into a physical and emotional battle, showing persistent threats at the disciplined Super Eagles defence, only to have no single shot on target recorded.

Minutes into the second-half stoppage time, the Cameroonian defence was caught by surprise with a fast-paced free-flowing move by the Nigerian forwards, cutting them open at the back. They were caught napping when Calvin Bassey’s low cut-in cross from the left-corner flank found Ademola Lookman, as he deservedly doubled the lead for Nigeria in the 86th minute.

Four minutes to second-half stoppage time, Ademola Lookman’s brace doubled the lead for Nigeria after a Calvin Bassey’s low cut-in cross from the left-corner flank to catch the Cameroonian defence unaware. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

This was very much deserved victory for Nigeria — a night to avenge their defeat to Cameroon in this very stadium in the 1984 AFCON final. The Atalanta forward tremendously scored a brace to send the three-time African champions past the Indomitable Lions to book a seat in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Quarter-finals since bowing out to the Desert Foxes of Algeria in the Semi-finals in 2019.

José Peseiro’s men will be back at the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium to face Palancas Negras of Angola on Friday, February 2. Pedro Valdemar Soares Goncalves’ side had earlier defeated Namibia 3-0 before the Super Eagles’ triumph that day in what proved to be a lively encounter with three goals and a red card each to both teams.

At the final whistle under the flood lights of Félix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium, Nigeria completed her fourth win over Cameroon in their last five meetings. Photo Credit: Culled from The Independent.

It was reported that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) had randomly selected Victor Osimhen, Moses Simon and William Troost Ekong for in-competition dope tests after Nigeria progressed to the last eight.

However, the anti-doping test conducted by the Africa’s football governing body on the Nigerian trio returned false-negative results which means that nothing was detected in their bodies as a form of any prohibited substance and have all been cleared for the quarter-final clash against Angola.

The delegation of players and officials of the team in celebrations and thanksgiving after booking a seat in the quarter-finals of the tournament, to face Palancas Negras of Angola. Photo Credit: Culled from BBC.

Ahead of yesterday’s quarter-final clash between Nigeria and Angola, the two nations over the years have met eight times during the qualifying series for the World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations with the results evenly matched with two wins apiece alongside four draws. However, this will be their first-ever meeting at a major tournament.

Speaking with the journalists after Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Cameroon in the second round of the competition, the Super Eagles Head Coach, José Peseiro said that the team must employ its maximum efforts to beat Angola in the quarter-final of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast.

The Super Eagles are greatly waxing in spiritedness and oneness as they target a fourth AFCON title in Côte d’Ivoire. Photo Credit: Culled from The Sun Nigeria.

“The next match will be more difficult than this one. I think my players know that. We are playing with a fantastic spirit now, but we must be focused on the target and train more before the next match.

“I told my players that for this tournament, you need efficacy. Do not suffer, but score your opponents. If they play that way, then we can beat Angola. We will need to do our maximum against Angola. The name of the country might not carry weight, but if we must beat Angola, then we must do our best,” the 63-year-old gaffer said.

“Osimhen! Osimhen!! Osimhen!!!” Nigerians and well-wishers in the stand chanting profusely at the close of business in Nigeria’s 2-0 victory over Cameroon. Photo Credit: Culled from The Punch Newspaper.

Having passed the fitness test to feature in the encounter with the Palancas Negras of Angola, Nigerians were excited to see Stanley Nwabali retained his place in the starting line-up to face Pedro Valdemar Soares Goncalves’ men in the last eight of the 34th edition of the Africa’s biennial tournament.

In a persistent 3-4-3 formation, the ever-impressive back three of Semi Ajayi, Calvin Bassey and William Troost-Ekong with Ola Aina and Zaidu Sanusi, covering the width of the field and intersecting in the attacking build-up as wing-backs.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria are in safe hands of Stanley Nwabali – four clean sheets in five matches with 2.7 saves per game, 88.9% save rate. Photo Credit: Icon Sport.

Frank Onyeka returned to his usual centre-midfield position, with Alex Iwobi as the pivot point between the midfield and the forwards. However, they were both replaced by Joe Aribo and Alhassan Yusuf respectively in the heat of the second 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, Moses Simon with the duo of Ademola Lookman and Victor Osimhen formed the attacking force for the Super Eagles but was substituted with Kenneth Omeruo and Paul Onuachu in the seven-minute second-half stoppage time.

Super Eagles right wingback Ola Aina sent in a long cross to find CAF 2023 Player of the Year who rose tall above all, but to whizzed it off into the Angolan goalkeeper’s gloves. Photo Credit: Culled from Football In Pidgin.

Four minutes into the game, Mabululu’s flick almost gave Angola the lead from a resulting right-flank corner kick as his attempt at the near-post was kept out by the Nigerian goalie, Stanley Nwabali in front of a crowd of 18,757 at the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan.

The Angolan side made a bright start as they twice went agonisingly close to scoring, but were largely denied by Nigeria’s overwhelming control of the action. José Peseiro’s men were able to keep a formidable team who have shown why they have been such a vibrant free-scoring presence in the tournament in a stalemate.

Super Eagles forward Ademola Lookman scores his third consecutive goal of the competition to hand Nigeria the lead in the 41st minute. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

However, it was Nigeria who looked more promising upfront with near misses from Osimhen heading twice off target. A brisk run-of-play from the centre half, singled out Simon with a one-time pass on the left, accelerated away from Kialonda Gaspar and drove into the area before cutting the ball back for Lookman to fire into the roof of the net four minutes before the break.

It was the Atalanta forward who scored both goals as the Super Eagles downed rivals Cameroon in the Round of 16 and smashed home a low cross in the 41st minute to give Nigeria a 1-0 lead at halftime.

The man is so on fire and it doesn’t look like he is cooling anytime soon – 3 goals in 5 matches. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

Going into the second half, Pedro Valdemar Soares Goncalves-led Angolan side almost responded just before the hour mark. Zine latched onto Show’s through ball and beat Nwabali, only to see his first-time shot bounce back off the post.

The three-time African champions then thought they had killed the game when Osimhen rose to head home a Lookman free-kick with a quarter of an hour left, with the Reigning African Footballer of the Year finding the back of the net only for his effort to be chalked off for an offside by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

Nigeria in celebrations after Victor Osimhen thought his header had doubled the lead from Ademola Lookman free-kick before it was ruled out for offside by VAR. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

The Super Eagles have managed to convert six times out of many scoring chances created, one from the spot-kick and three of their recent goals coming from a run of play in this tournament, but Nigeria’s success has been built around an impressive defence that has only conceded once with four consecutive clean sheets.

Although, the Angolans pressed forward for an equaliser in the tail end of the game a couple of times, but to no avail. Only for Nigeria to avoid any major late scares to stay on course for a fourth continental championship, as they defended with their dear life to hold out a one-goal victory at full-time.

Regardless of wherever you are from, football only promote one message to the world – LOVE AND UNITY IN DIVERSITY. Photo Credit: Culled from Soccernet.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have now secured their passage into the semi-finals slated for next Wednesday in a tie against Cape Verde or South Africa in the central Ivorian city of Bouake — those sides meet in one of the last two quarter-finals on Saturday (today).

Commendably, José Peseiro has done exceptionally well with the crop of talents at his disposal as this competition is concerned with what many have now deemed as the best national team selection in a long while.

Super Eagles Head Coach José Vitor Peseiro has so far proven his doubters wrong with good results and performances seen in this tournament. Photo Credit: Culled from Daily Post Nigeria.

Not taking out the fact that there are obvious situations of lack of creativity and squad depth as earlier cited by Nigerians, however, the team is greatly becoming more solid and showing consistency as they progress.

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