The Super Eagles of Nigeria on Thursday posted a superlative performance at the Olympic Stadium Ebimpe disabling Hosts Elephants of Ivory Coast 1-0 in a second round Group A.
Nigeria broke two jinx situations of never ever beating Ivory Coast on home ground and the sentiment that Nigeria never won a match in white Jersey that the boys adorned.
African Footballer of the year, Victor Osimhem was the target of the Ivorians but he was brought down in the box. The Algerian Ref was summoned by the VAR crew to see the act and he awarded a penalty to Nigeria which Centre Back for Greek team PAOK and on field Captain of Nigeria, William Troost-Ekong toed to the left of the Ivorian Goalkeeper in the 55th minute for the great goal.
Osimhem missed a couple of chances but was the MAN OF THE MATCH in a game that Nigeria defence that did not keep a clean slate in their last six matches played a compact, impregnable defence that forced The Elephants to shoot at goal from the periphery of the penalty box most of the time and Nigeria’s new Keeper who was confident, calculative and as cool as a Cucumber thwarted the shots.
Equatorial Guinea leads the Group with 4 points scoring 5 goals and conceding 3 goals; Nigeria is second with 4 points 2 goals for and one against; hosts Ivory Coast is third with 3 goals for and one against while Guinea Bissau stands at the exit door with no point and 6 goals against.
The last Group A matches is on Monday 21st January when both matches will be played simultaneously. Nigeria plays Guinea Bissau and Ivory Coast will engage in a testy match with Equatorial Guinea.
Nigeria and Ivory Coast met three times before. On 7th February 2006 Ivory Coast beat Nigeria at their backyard in an AFCON match; The Elephants did an encore winning 1-0 in another AFCON match on 21st January 2008. The Super Eagles tied down the Elephants in the quarter finals at South African 2013 in Rustenburg when Emmanuel Emenike scored 43rd minute; Tiote equalized in the 50th minute and Sunday Mba provided a slammer that rested the Elephants in the 78th minute.
It will be recalled that Emenike of Nigeria and Mubarak Wakasa of Ghana were joint top scorers at the tournament in South Africa with four goals each.
The last group A matches is on Monday 21st January at 6pm when the two matches will be played simultaneously Guinea Bissau playing a survival game with Nigeria and Ivory Coast facing Equatorial Guinea challenge.
Egypt plays Ghana at 9pm tonight in Group B.
Nigeria played 2-2 draw with Saudi Arabia in a friendly played in Portugal on 14th October 2023 and on the 19th of October beat Mozambique 3-2 in another friendly on the same pitch in Portugal; Nigeria played an amazing 1-1 draw with Lesotho in a world cup match on 17th October of November 2023; she again played 1-1 with Zimbabwe in another world cup match on the 19th of November 2023 and on 8th January 2024 Nigerians were stunned with 0-2 loss to Guinea in a friendly match in Nigeria.
Nigeria ranked 42 in the world is making her 26th appearance at AFCON. She is three times champion with some impressive podium finish. She got Bronze at Ethiopia 76 beating Egypt 3-2; bagged another Bronze in Ghana 78 beating Tunisia 2-0; won in Lagos at 1980 beating Algeria 3-0; got the Silver in three consecutive competitions – Ivory Coast 1984 losing to Cameroon 3-1, at Morocco 88 losing again to Cameroon 0-1 and Algeria 90 losing to Algeria by a lone goal.
Nigeria got Bronze at Senegal 92 beating rivals Cameroon 2-1; became champions at Tunisia 94 with a 2-1 win over Zambia; again lost to Cameroon when Nigeria/Ghana hosted in 2000 via 4-3 penalty shootouts after 2-2 scores to bag the Silver; Got the Bronze with a lone goal victory over Mali at Mali 2002; back to Tunisia in 2004 Nigeria won Bronze with a lone goal victory over Senegal; at Egypt 2006 Nigeria again beat Senegal 1-0 to win the Bronze; in 2010 at Angola Nigeria beat Algeria by a lone goal to win Bronze; she came back at South Africa 2013 under Stephen Keshi to win the trophy beating the Stallions of Burkina Faso by a lone goal scored by Sunday Mba and in 2019 she got the Bronze at Egypt in a lone goal victory over Tunisia. Please note that only podium finish records are presented concerning Nigeria.
Elephants of Ivory Coast ranked 49 in the world and seeking a title since 2015. Ivory Coast is in their 25th appearance and has been champions twice in 1992 and 2015. Their biggest win was 11-0 massacre of Central African Republic in Abidjan on 20th of December 1961 and their biggest loss was to the Dutch team 0-5 on 4th June 2017.
The podium finish of Ivory Coast is a bit impressive. Got Bronze in 1986 at Egypt defeating Morocco 3-2; won the 92 edition beating Nigeria 11-10 on penalties as the real match ended 0-0 after extra time; won Bronze at Tunisia 94 beating Mali 3-1; came from the coolers to bag a Silver in Egypt 2006 winning 4-2 on penalties after goalless with the hosts Egypt; made the 4th place at Ghana 2008 losing the Bronze 2-4 to Ghana; when Equatorial Guinea and Gabon co-hosted in 2012, the Elephants lost the trophy to Zambia winning Silver via 8-7 penalty shootouts after a goalless match and in Equatorial Guinea 2015 the Elephants carted the AFCON trophy via penalty kicks 9-8 after goalless with the Black Stars of Ghana.
The Ivoirians played 1-1 with Morocco in a friendly on 14th October 2023; played another 1-1 with South Africa in another friendly on 17th October 2023; thrashed Seychelles 9-0 in a world cup match on 17th November 2023; trampled on the Scorpions of Gambia 2-0 in another world cup match on 20th November 2023 and on 6th of January 2024 slaughtered Sierra Leone 5-1 in a friendly.
Cape Verde will step up to meet Mozambique in an outstanding Group B match at 3pm tomorrow Friday; Defending Champions Senegal will be in a Lion versus Lions match facing Cameroon at 6pm and Guinea will face Scorpions of Gambia at 9pm.
Eniola Olatunji reporting for Patmos Media Line.