Football Features

Nigeria 3-2 Cameroon: Five things we learned as Super Eagles eliminate the holders to book Afcon quarter-final place

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 19:06, 6 July 2019 | Updated: 8:16, 8 July 2019

Nigeria have qualified for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finalists after running out 3-2 winners over Cameroon.

Gernot Rohr’s men went in front in this pulsating affair through Odion Ighalo but saw their lead overturned by half-time following quickfire goals from Stephane Bahoken and then Clinton N’Jie.

However, in the space of three minutes, they would restore proceedings courtesy of man of the hour Ighalo and Alex Iwobi before holding on to eliminate the holders.

As the dust settles here are five things we learned from this encounter in Alexandria.

1. They finally concede

Going into the round of 16 no fewer than four teams had kept a clean sheet in each of their group matches. Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt and Morocco were the impregnable ones. In the space of two days we’ve seen that list being halved.

Firstly, the Atlas Lions were breached as Benin went on to dump Morocco out, and now Cameroon conceded their first goal. The moment came in the 19th minute when former Watford centre-forward Odion Ighalo saw his deflected shot creep past a rooted André Onana, he would later score a second – clinical left foot finish –18 minutes after the break.

2. You wait for a goal before the hour mark and then, like London buses…

It’s fair to say Cameroon have been a little goal-shy at these championships. No one could have expected this following their opening 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau, but their subsequent meetings with Ghana and Benin ended in goalless draws which only put doubts over whether they’re capable of defending their crown.

All of that came to a head in the opening half against Nigeria, coming into this game the Indomitable Lions only goals were scored inside the final 30 minutes, so for them to strike – not once but twice – before the hour mark was a fillip for boss Clarence Seedorf, who saw Stephane Bahoken four minutes before the half-time interval tap home the equaliser and Clinton N’Jie moments later putting them in front. Incredibly, Bahoken’s effort was Cameroon’s first goal in the opening 45 minutes at the Afcon since Benjamin Moukandjo against Burkina Faso in January 2017.

3. Iwobi arrivies

Anything the defending champions can do, Nigeria can as well. Just when it seemed they were verging on being eliminated, Ighalo came alive. In the minutes preceding his equaliser Cameroon were all over their neighbours like a cheap suit. It was only a matter of time before they stretched their lead, but they failed to capitalise on nervy Nigerian defending and were duly punished by the aforementioned Shanghai Greenland Shenhua marksman.

With their tails up, Nigeria kept pushing and were rewarded three minutes later when Alex Iwobi – teeded up by the masterful Ighalo – finally broke his Afcon duck, the Arsenal forward had been anonymous until now but given the occasion and timing it could be a goal that propels him into enjoying a key role going forward in this competition.

4. A proud record extends

Nigeria are undoubtedly a powerhouse in African football. To date, they’ve lifted three Afcon titles, but it’s their consistent record spanning three decades that is impressive. Despite missing four tournaments since 1980 — failing to qualify in 1986 and 2012 whilst prohibited (1998) and withdrew (1996) the other times — they’ve reached 12 consecutive quarter-finals heading into these championships.

So, naturally, this current incarnation of the Super Eagles have an ulmightly record to uphold. But such pressure comes with the shirt, they started tentatively, securing back-to-back 1-0 wins over Burundi and Guinea before suffering a humbling 2-0 loss against Madagascar which led to this mouthwatering affair which in the past has contested three finals (1984, 1988, 2000) all won by Cameroon, who couldn’t end this incredible run which now stretches to 13 tournaments.

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5. Indomitable Lions fall

Given the circumstances of two years ago, when a number of high profile names refused to participate, Cameroon’s triumph was all that more sweeter. They will not be able to make it back-to-back championships and equally frustrating their last ever victory over Nigeria inside the opening 90 minutes remains a 1-0 World Cup qualifier win in August 1989.

Nigeria’s win also ends Cameroon’s nine-match Afcon unbeaten run, which turned out to be their joint-longest such streak in the tournament.