AFCON 2019: Nigeria, Cameroon rekindle rivalry in crunch battle for quarter-final ticket

NIGERIA: Super eagles [PHOTO CREDIT: NFF twitter handle]
Super eagles [PHOTO CREDIT: NFF twitter handle]

One of the biggest rivalries in African football will be reignited on Saturday when the Super Eagles battle Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions in what passes as one of the star matches in the Round of 16 fixtures at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt.

While Nigeria are three-time AFCON champions, their opponent are five-time winners as well as the defending champion of the continent’s biggest football competition.

Despite their pedigree and star-studded teams, neither Nigeria nor Cameroon have shown enough grit to highlight their title credentials at 2019 event.

Both teams finished runner–up in their respective groups despite being rated to top. Also, low goal-scoring is noticeable in both camps with only two goals in each team’s kitty after three games.

Going into Saturday’s encounter, Nigeria suffered a shock 0-2 defeat to lowly ranked Madagascar in their final Group B game.

The Super Eagles were expected not just to win the match but do so without sweat against the tournament’s debutant. But they let many down.

It was almost the same for cup holders Cameroon who disappointed many by recording an uninspiring barren draw in their final Group F encounter with the Squirrels of Benin Republic.

Head-to-Head

Regardless of recent successes, Cameroon have had the upper hand against Nigeria in AFCON history, although Nigeria have won 13 of 22 encounters in all competitions. Nigeria also humiliated the Indomitable Lions in the race to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

It is also on record that the Lions have not beaten the Super Eagles in regulation time since August 27, 1989, when an under-strength Nigerian side lost 0-1 in Yaounde in an Italia 1990 World Cup qualifier –two weeks after Samuel Okwaraji died in another World Cup qualifier against Angola in Lagos.

What they are saying

Already, Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana has stated they are in high spirits for Saturday’s Round of 16 encounter with Nigeria

“We have total respect for the Super Eagles. They are a good side and can improve on what they have shown so far is this competition,” Onana said at the pre-match presser on Friday.

“For us, it is a big motivation to face a good side like Nigeria. You don’t need extra motivation to play a big game.

“We expect a tough game. I expect them to play well as always. They are a very good team. But we are ready. We continue to the end.

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“We’re ready to play any team and we have to show that we are stronger than them.”

He added: “The loss to Nigeria in the World Cup qualifiers is all in the past and tomorrow’s (Saturday) game is different.”

Cameroon are unbeaten in their last nine AFCON games, their longest streak in the tournament since going 12 matches without a loss between February 2000 – February 2004.

On his part, Nigeria defender William Troost-Ekong believes the embarrassing 2-0 defeat against Madagascar in the group stage will inspire his side to victory in Saturday’s clash with Cameroon.

“We feel sad about the Madagascar game; it will give us a boost ahead against Cameroon,” Troost-Ekong told the media on Friday.

“We’ve been in this situation before when we’ve lost games when we might have been favourites beforehand. The same thing happened at home versus South Africa at the start of qualifying. Games like that happen.

“I think everyone now has woken up from that game. I don’t think anyone was satisfied from that performance. So we have to be very driven to show Nigeria and Africa that we feel otherwise. If you need motivation for this game you’re probably not in the right mindset. We’re going to be very eager to prove a point.”

The winner of Nigeria vs Cameroon game will face whoever emerges top in the other Round of 16 tie between Egypt and South Africa in the quarter-final.

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