BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Never say die! The Super are back into reckoning as they beat hosts, Cote d’Ivoire 1-0 to become joint leaders of Group A along with Equatorial Guinea. The hosts, initial table toppers have now dropped to third and have a mountain to climb on Monday when they face Equatorial Guinea in their last group game.
At that same time, the Super Eagles will be facing an apparently already eliminated Guinea Bissau who sit comfortably on the bottom rung of the group ladder.
What a feat for Super Eagles! They have not just their first competitive match since last September, this is the first time they are winning against Cote d’Ivoire in six previous time.
The best result had been the 2-2 draw of 1977 when Segun Odegbami and Adokiye Amiesimaka scored to cancelled an initial 2-0 lead by Cote d’Ivoire in a 1978 World Cup qualifiers.
Nigeria’s fears for the white shirt was also put to rest. What a relief it has been for the coach, Jose Peseiro whose team had not clicked against any football power house in the continent.
With massive pressure put on both Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria following Equatorial Guinea’s 4-2 defeat of Guinea Bissau, both West African teams went straight for each others’ jugular. A win would have confirmed qualification into Round of 16 for Cote d’Ivoire while Nigeria too needed the game to remain afloat.
After a goalless first half in which both teams missed glaring chances, the deadlock was broken in the second half when Nigeria’s talismanic striker, Victor Osimen was fouled by Ousmane Diomande.
The initial foul was overlooked by the referee before the VAR called his attention to it. The 55th minute penalty was converted by William Troost-Ekong.