Nigeria produced another exquisite performance to seal a 3-1 victory over Sudan on matchday two of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
First-half goals from Samuel Chukwueze and Taiwo Awoniyi put the Super Eagles in the driving seat before Moses Simon added the third a minute into the second period.
Nigeria’s defence was breached for the first time in this competition via a soft penalty, but the result was never in doubt.
Qualification to the knockout round is now guaranteed even with a game to spare, and it is a fantastic time to be a Super Eagles’ fan.
Soccernet.ng‘s Imhons Erons points at some of the notable things to take away from that pleasant win.
Moses Simon is Nigeria’s best player so far
No Super Eagles star has stepped up the plate to be counted more than the Nantes forward. And that is in a Nigerian team full of top performers.
Simon was the tormentor-in-chief against Egypt and could have easily claimed the man-of-the-match award given to Kelechi Iheanacho in that game.
But there was no denying who was the best player on the pitch on Saturday. His assist to Chukwueze’s opener and his well-taken goal only told half the story.
Simon won seven duels, completed three of his four attempted take-ons, created two chances and had two shots on target. CAF has picked his strike as the goal of the day.
The 26-year-old is in the form of his life, and long may it continue.
GETT INNN! ⬇️— CAF (@CAF_Online) January 16, 2022
A brilliant one-two pass & a clever finish from a tight angle. 🥅
Moses Simon's astonishing strike is our #GoalOfTheDay. 👇
𝘼𝙣𝙮𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙘𝙖𝙣 𝙜𝙚𝙩 𝙡𝙪𝙘𝙠𝙮 | #TotalEnergiesAFCON2021 | #AFCON2021 | #TeamNigeria | @1xBet_Eng pic.twitter.com/cqwODKG897
The Super Eagles are favourites for the title
With many first and second-choice players missing out of Nigeria’s squad for Afcon 2021, no one knew what to expect from the Super Eagles in Cameroon.
But after two comfortable victories backed by excellent displays, the three-time continental champions are back in the conversation of the likely winners of Cameroon 2021.
Hosts Cameroon look strong. Defending champions Algeria remain solid. Senegal have some of Africa’s best players. Nigeria are well organised, defend well, and look dangerous in attack.
Any of those four will end up winning the Afcon.
Samuel Chukwueze must step up
The Villarreal winger side-footed in his first goal of the tournament after just three minutes to hand Nigeria the lead in Garoua.
That is his second Afcon goal, following his fine strike against South Africa in the quarterfinals of Egypt 2019.
But while Simon was dazzling the Sudanese on the left flank, Chukwueze was not that lively on the right side.
And aside from his goal, he did not affect the game and was replaced at halftime by Everton star Alex Iwobi.
But none who watched Chukwueze drive Villarreal to the final of the Europa League last year will doubt the youngster’s quality.
Chukwueze remains one of Nigeria’s most gifted attackers.
And the road to the Afcon final would be smoother for the Super Eagles should the 2015 U-17 World Cup winner gets into his groove.
Iwobi is still one of the Eagles’ best
Many Everton fans have knocked the midfielder for the hefty transfer fee the club paid Arsenal for his services in 2019 and some of his recent displays.
Despite his struggles at Merseyside, Iwobi is a different beast when wearing the green and white kits.
With Joe Aribo’s masterful handling of matters in the Eagles’ midfield, the team could afford to do without Iwobi in the game against Egypt and the first half of the tie against Sudan.
But Iwobi’s introduction gave Nigeria more bite in attack, with his sleek passing and composure on the ball reminding everyone that he is one of the Eagles’ finest.
The best of Maduka Okoye is yet to come
After keeping a clean sheet against Mohamed Salah and co, Okoye finally picked the ball from his net, albeit from a Sudanese penalty.
Placed behind a solid and organised defence marshalled by William Troost-Ekong and Kenneth Omeruo, the Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper has had little to do between the posts so far.
But Okoye’s concentration was not at high levels against the Falcons, and he fumbled one or two crosses that would normally be routine catches.
The competition will get tougher in the latter stages of the championship, and only Okoye’s A-game will get the Eagles past stormy times.