The Super Eagles are set to square up against the Indomitable Lions in the second round of the Total Africa Cup of Nations in one of the most talked about fixtures of Egypt 2019. There has never been a shortage of fireworks, drama and controversies whenever the two African football giants meet and more of the same is anticipated as the 5-time champions – unbeaten so far – face familiar foes in Gernot Rohr-managed Nigeria.
Soccernet Nigeria goes down memory lane to bring you some of the greatest games played out between the two West African brothers.
It was the year 2000. And one of the most thrilling final matches the AFCON had ever seen was played out by two amazingly talented sides. Nigeria and Ghana had played the wonderful hosts to the rest of Africa and it was fitting that the Super Eagles made it to the final after a 6-year AFCON absence. But waiting for them in the title decider was a Cameroon side not lacking in grit and guile.
The Lions raced to a two-goal lead within half an hour of kickoff courtesy of sweet strikes from Samuel Eto’o and Patrick Mboma. The stunned hosts were jolted back awake by a Raphael Chukwu goal just before halftime before the mercurial Austin J J Okocha would level the scores barely two minutes after the restart to give the Lagos spectators something to celebrate. Their joy would, however, be short-lived as the game ended in a stalemate with Cameroon going on to win the penalty shootout, Nwankwo Kanu and Victor Ikpeba missing their spot kickS to hand the guests their third Championship title.
The 14th edition of the AFCON in 1984 was hosted by Ivory Coast but it was, in every sense, Theophile Abega’s tournament.
The supremely gifted captain – nicknamed “Doctor”, a tribute to his footballing intelligence – had lifted the Indomitable Lions to the final with his dribbles, assists and goals. The Green Eagles – the nickname of the Nigerian sides – had won the championships 4 years earlier and were the slight favourites. Muda Lawal opened the scoring for Nigeria in the 10th minute but N’Djeya’s equalizer, thanks to the Doctor’s assist, ensured the two sides went into the dressing room at halftime at par. But two second-half goals from Abega and Ebongue condemned Nigeria to a 3-1 loss, thereby handling Cameroon their first ever title.
After suffering the humiliation of losing 3 AFCON final matches to the Indomitable Lions, including on home soil four years earlier, the Super Eagles got back a pound of flesh in 2004.
A Samuel Eto’o inspired side had conquered Africa back to back and were confident of a golden triple when Austin Okocha and co ambushed them at the quarter-final of AFCON 2014. Eto’o got the opener in the opening 30 minutes after a Geremi Njitap through pass caught the Nigerian defence napping. Step up Okocha. The magical midfielder curled home a textbook-perfect free-kick to level proceedings right on the stroke of halftime.
In the second half, Cameroon pressed endlessly but it was the Super Eagles who eventually got the winner when Utaka ran unto a carefully disguised Nwankwo Kanu pass to break Cameroonian hearts and hopes for a third straight Nations Cup crown.
Twice Nigeria and Cameroon met at the 16th edition of the African Championships, Maroc ’88. Twice the Eagles could not soar over the Lions.
Paired in the same group, the two sides played out a score draw in a game Nigeria bossed and should probably have won. Sam Okwaraji of blessed memory blasted home a beautiful opener with only 2 minutes on the clock but Roger Milla bundled in an equalizer that earned the Cameroonians the group’s second qualifying spot behind Nigeria.
Once again, both sides would sweep past all comers to face-off in the what turned out to be a keenly fought final. The game was heading for a draw before the referee sighted an infringement in the Nigerian penalty box and awarded a penalty to the equally stunned Lions.
Emmanuel Kunde expertly dispatched the resultant spot kick, leaving Nigeria hurt and broken in the final yet again.