The three-time continental champions had the quality to go all the way to the final but bowed out meekly at the first knockout stage
Super Eagles winger Chidera Ejuke has provided reasons why Nigeria failed to go beyond the second round of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
The 2013 Afcon kings arrived in Cameroon under a cloud of uncertainty after the sacking of long-serving head coach Gernot Rohr and the withdrawal of several key players, including leading striker Victor Osimhen.
But under the tutelage of interim coach Augustine Eguavoen, the Super Eagles fuelled their title hopes by winning their three group games against Egypt, Sudan, and Guinea-Bissau.
Known for his silky dribbles, CSKA Moscow ace Ejuke featured in each of those matches, making the starting eleven in the 2-0 defeat of Guinea-Bissau.
But the Eagles stumbled at their next hurdle, suffering a 1-0 loss to Tunisia to get dumped out of the biennial competition.
Ejuke did not make it off the bench for that encounter. But on his return to the Russian capital, his club teammates still wanted to know how the Eagles failed to soar past the Carthage Eagles.
“Everyone was interested in how we played there, how we lost to Tunisia in the 1/8 finals,” Ejuke told CSKA’s official website.
“Of course, it was very disappointing, because we have good players, we did the group stage perfectly. We hoped for more, but our time will come.”
The former Heerenveen star continued: “I did not play myself — you can, of course, judge from the outside, but those who were on the field have a weightier opinion.
“The Tunisians did a little more to win than we did. The team continued to create chances after the red card but did not use them. The tide turned against us.”
Ejuke has eight caps for the Super Eagles, and Cameroon 2021 is the first time the 24-year-old will represent Nigeria at a major tournament.
The Eagles have not won a major title since lifting the Nations Cup in South Africa in 2013.