A beautiful evening in Garoua, Cameroon, ended with a fine Nigerian victory over Egypt in their opening Group D match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
A superb 30th-minute strike from Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho secured the Eagles’ first win in more than 30 years at the Afcon over the Pharaohs.
Honestly, the scoreline did not tell half the story. The Egyptians could have lost by a heavier margin but for poor finishing and indecision at crucial moments by the Nigerians.
Not many expected the Eagles to be so dominant against a team skippered by arguably the best player in the world at the moment.
But the three-time African champions did it in style, and below are the things we learnt from that triumph.
1. Sacking Gernot Rohr is the NFF’s best decision of 2021
It came in the last month of the year and seemingly threw the preparation for the Afcon in disarray, but giving the German manager the boot is now clearly an inspired move.
The Super Eagles’ energetic and purposeful display on Tuesday made a mockery of his slow, reactive style.
The same players he deployed for five years suddenly under Augustine Eguavoen looked like a completely different and refreshing team: a massive effort that cannot be faulted, concentration from start to finish, organisation in defence, coupled with speed and flair in attack.
Can the NFF kindly announce the sacking of Rohr again?
2. The Eagles do not need a foreign coach
It is clear that Portuguese tactician Jose Peseiro has already been engaged, but God helps him if his Eagles lack the intensity and dynamism evident in Eguavoen’s Eagles.
Rohr is the longest-serving Nigerian national team coach. Peseiro’s tenure may be the shortest.
In only 90 minutes of football, Eguavoen has shown that he is a better coach than Rohr.
He deserves respect, the full credit for the victory over Egypt, and the Super Eagles’ job permanently should he take this team to the semifinals playing this brand of exciting football.
3. Football is easy for Aribo
Rangers fans have been singing his praises all season after following one brilliant performance with another.
And apart from those excellent showings against Brazil and Ukraine in 2019, his performance versus Egypt is his best in the green and white kit.
Against Mo Salah and co, Aribo won all his ground duels (4/4) and completed all his take-ons (1/1), flaunting his creative and defensive abilities for all to see.
It is so easy to fall in love with him.
4. A possessed Ola Aina is a scary monster
The Egyptians could not get anywhere close to Aina for an hour and a half. A constant terror marauding up and down the right flank, Aina outshone Chukwueze in front of him and the Egyptian attackers set against him.
The Torino wing-back had 100% take-on success, made the most tackles (6), had the most touches (68), made two interceptions, delivered two crosses, fired two shots, and was not dribbled past once.
Give me a shot of the Aina tonic, please.
5. Iheanacho is different gravy
Individually and collectively, the Super Eagles were fantastic against Egypt.
Every single one of them.
Moses Simon was the tormentor-in-chief, Ndidi was solid, Sanusi had a memorable evening, Awoniyi showed glimpses of an all-round striker, and Aribo delivered a performance for the ages.
Still, Iheanacho towered above them all with that beautiful, match-winning goal.
The way he took down Aribo’s header, knew just the amount of time he had before the defender closed him up, and the technique that generated enough power on the ball to give the goalkeeper no chance.
Nobody else in the Super Eagles could have scored that goal exactly like that.
Hats off to the Leicester City man who could be the star of the Afcon in his maiden appearance.
To Sudan now. Africa, beware. The Eagles have landed.