Following Nigeria’s gallant qualification for Africa’s biggest tournament, the hopes of many Nigerians were raised. Having missed two of the previous tournaments, it was a relief to see the 2013 champions qualify for the event currently on in Egypt.
When the draws for the nations cup was made public, there was jubilation among Nigerian football lovers as it seemed Nigeria was drawn with easy opponents. Fast forward to the tournament proper, the first game for Nigeria was a narrow escape as they managed to soar past 134th placed Burundi by a lone goal from substitute Odion Jude Ighalo in the second half. Although the eagles managed to clinch the ticket for the knock-out phase of the competition in their second group match against Guinea, they were far from convincing. The next hurdle to pass before cementing their place as group champions was against debutants Madagascar. One would have thought the match against the lowly-placed side would have been a walk in the park for the eagles but we were stunned as the eagles were humbled to a two-nil defeat, thereby causing the three-time champions to settle for second place.
The defeat means the three-time champions will have to face the daunting task of soaring above the indomitable lions of Cameroon. How easy will it be for Nigeria? It will be a match to watch as football fans are eager to know the outcome. Will it be the end of the road for the eagles or will they soar past the indomitable lions? That and many more questions seem to be on the lips of Nigerians today.
Let me quickly remind us that out of 22 encounters with Cameroon, Nigeria has lost just four times, winning eleven and drawing seven. Few months after Cameroon was crowned 2017 Afcon champions they faced Nigeria in a world cup qualifier over two legs where the eagles trashed the indomitable lions 4-0 and drew 1-1 in Yaounde. I say unto you ‘let not your hearts be troubled…’. Let us come out in mass on Saturday and watch our darling eagles soar to the quarter finals of the competition.