BY ADEMOLA OLAJIRE
History, pedigree, current form and turf familiarity are factors weighing heavily in favour of the Super Eagles as they confront the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in the Round of 16 at the 34th Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday.
Five-time champions Cameroon prosecuted their group phase games in Yamoussoukro, and have now arrived in Cote d’Ivoire’s commercial and industrial capital for Saturday’s potentially-explosive encounter with three-time champions Nigeria.
In effect, Nigeria and Cameroon have clashed in 17 competitive matches since their first of such matches in the Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah Cup on 8th December 1962, which Nigeria won 3-1. Of those 17 matches, Cameroon have won only 4 – three of these in the Final matches of the Africa Cup of Nations in 1984, 1988 and 2000. The only other time Cameroon have beaten Nigeria in a competitive match was on 27th August 1989, when Francois Omam Biyick scored the only goal in Yaounde that eliminated Nigeria from the race to the 1990 FIFA World Cup finals in Italy.
Nigeria have won nine of the other 13 matches, including a 2-1 defeat of Cameroon in the bronze medal-match of the 1992 AFCON; a 2-0 triumph in a 1990 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Ibadan; a 3-2 win in Yaounde in a 1970 World Cup qualifier; a 2-1 win in Monastir in a 2004 AFCON quarter-final; a 4-0 win in Uyo in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier and; a 3-2 win in Alexandria in a 2019 AFCON Round of 16 clash.
More than the above, the Super Eagles presently boast the Africa Player of the Year in Victor Osimhen, and the Super Eagles have more familiarity with the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny, where they pipped Guinea Bissau 1-0 on Monday to make sure of their place in this competition’s Round of 16.
Nigeria have reached the Round of 16 after scooping seven points, unbeaten in their three matches; Cameroon were battered 3-1 by Cup holders Senegal and fought hard to overcome The Gambia in added time to make sure of a place in the knock-out rounds.
As both teams prepare for the big day, thenff.com takes a cursory look at the SEVEN previous clashes involving Nigeria and Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations – the continent’s flagship football championship:
1) 1984 AFCON FINAL MATCH: Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Abidjan
Coach Adegboye Onigbinde brought in Patrick Okala for Peter Rufai, who was injured in a bruising semi-final encounter with Egypt, which went to penalties in Bouake four days earlier. Bala Ali, who got the equalizer in that match, started in place of Chibuzor Ehilegbu. Rapid winger Clement Temile, two-goal hero against Malawi in the group phase, also started from the bench, with Stephen Keshi, Kingsley Paul, Paul Okoku, Muda Lawal, Humphrey Edobor, Yisa Sofoluwe and James Etokebe among the starters.
Etokebe sprinted to a through pass by Edobor and made a pull-out that Antoine-Bell fumbled for Muda Lawal to lash in for Nigeria’s goal. A free-kick late in the first half brushed Keshi’s head to fly past Okala for the equalizer, and Abega put Cameroon in front before Eugene Ekoule’s winner. The Lions deployed their huge experience and exposure at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain, where they exited at group phase without losing any of their matches against Poland, Peru and eventual winners Italy.
2) 1988 AFCON GROUP PHASE MATCH: Stade Prince Moulay Abdallah, Rabat
Samuel Okwaraji, who only joined the team the previous year, scored with a scorching left-footed shot after only two minutes, but Cameroon equalized 20 minutes later with a header by Roger Milla, with the Nigeria defence thinking they had kept him offside. The draw followed a 3-0 defeat of Kenya, and meant Nigeria only needed a draw in their next match against Egypt (which they got) to reach the semi finals.
Goalkeeper Peter Rufai, defenders Yisa Sofoluwe, Andrew Uwe, Sunday Eboigbe and Bright Omokaro, midfielders Henry Nwosu and Ademola Adeshina, and forwards Okwaraji and Rashidi Yekini were among those involved.
3) 1988 AFCON FINAL MATCH: Stade King Mohamed V, Casablanca
Nigeria, who had survived another bruising semi-final, in which they went to penalty shootout with Algeria after a 1-1 draw after regulation and extra time, started brightly with Ndubuisi Okosieme installed on the right, Humphrey Edobor on the left and livewire Henry Nwosu all over the place.
Henry Nwosu’s powerful header from Sam Okwaraji’s pull-out on the right sailed past Antoine-Bell, but referee Idrissa Sarr from Mauritania ruled off the strike. Cameroon scored with 10 minutes into the second half, when Eboigbe impeded Roger Milla and Emmanuel Kunde fired past Peter Rufai from the spot.
3) 1992 AFCON BRONZE MEDAL MATCH: Stade de l’Amitie, Dakar
Both teams needed to self-motivate after losing their semi-final matches, with the Eagles bumped by Ghana and Cameroon ejected after a penalty shootout by eventual winners Cote d’Ivoire. Coach Philippe Redon had dropped goalkeeper Antoine-Bell, who lost the crucial penalty against the Ivorians, and brought in Jacques Songo’o. The Lions’ squad also included Emile Mbouh, Benjamin Massing, Cyril Makanaky, Jean-Claude Pagal and Kessack Maboang.
Nigeria had Alloy Agu in goal, and also included Emeka Ezeugo, Isaac Semitoje, Nduka Ugbade, Reuben Agboola, Victor Ikpeba, Friday Ekpo, Mutiu Adepoju, Finidi George and Rashidi Yekini. Ekpo fired home from a 22-yard free-kick to give Nigeria the lead with 15 minutes to go, but the Lions equalized in the 85th minute through Bahoang. Yekini, who had scored three goals earlier in the tournament (two against Kenya and one against Zaire), got the winner from an acute angle with two minutes left.
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