Nigeria coach José Peseiro compared his team’s meagre goal tally at the Africa Cup of Nations to a bottle of ketchup, saying the goals might come all at once in the next match against Cameroon.
The Super Eagles face their old rival and five-time champion Cameroon in the last 16 on Saturday.
The lack of goals — one in each of the three games so far — are a concern for a Nigeria team boasting African player of the year Victor Osimhen and speedy wingers Samuel Chukwueze and Moses Simon.
Napoli star Osimhen, in particular, has endured a frustrating tournament by missing a host of good chances, He scored in the opening 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea, but only two of his six shots were on target. Osimhen had three shots in the 1-0 win over Ivory Coast, none of them on target, while he was unsuccessful with four efforts in the final group game, a 1-0 win over Guinea-Bissau.
“I saw some statistics that said our team until now has created more clear opportunities than the other opponents,” Peseiro said on Friday. “If you create opportunity, I cannot change our model, our game.”
The Portuguese coach said the goals will come.
“It can happen for the next match like ketchup. Sometimes the ketchup doesn’t come, but (then) all the ketchup comes at once. It’s possible, in the next match or another match, that all the goals can come with less opportunities.”
Osimhen’s 13 shots and four clear chances are the most for any Nigeria player at the tournament, but no player created more opportunities for his teammates in the group stage than Cameroon’s Georges-Kévin Nkoudou with 10.
Defense is more of a concern for Cameroon coach Rigobert Song, whose team conceded six goals in Group C and scraped into the knockout stage only with a late winner from Christopher Wooh over Gambia in their final group game.
“I want to approach this competition in relation to what happened in the last match and by correcting what did not work,” Cameroon coach Rigobert Song said. “Everything wasn’t perfect and you have to improve every day, so my players are aware. I know what needs to be done.”
Song will need to decide which goalkeeper to play after dropping Manchester United’s André Onana to the bench in favor of Onana’s cousin, Fabrice Ondoa, for the last group match. Ondoa made important saves in the 3-2 win over Gambia, while Onana produced a shaky performance in the previous match against Senegal.
“This is a country that has always had great goalkeepers,” Song said. “You remember the time of Thomas N’Kono, (Joseph-)Antoine Bell – it can be shared. They’re very good goalkeepers. I’ve no problem with the goalkeeper today, all my goalkeepers are competitive. And I’ll say it again, I’m counting on 27 players and all 27 are present and ready to respond to what we need. I don’t think there’s any controversy in picking one of these goalkeepers. They get along very well and I think everyone has a chance.”
Cameroon, the Indomitable Lions, will be playing in the same stadium where they won the first of their five Africa Cup titles by beating Nigeria 3-1 in the 1984 final. The rivals went on to play again in the deciders in 1988 and 2000, with Cameroon winning both times.
Angola plays Namibia in the first round-of-16 match earlier Saturday in Bouaké.
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