The two former champions will battle it out for a quarterfinal ticket in Abidjan on Saturday, with the high-stakes game likely to be decided on close margins
The much-anticipated face-off between Cameroon and Nigeria in the round of 16 at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations may be overshadowed by the absence of two key players, Jean-Charles Castelleto and Georges-Kévin Nkoudou, Soccernet.ng reports.
Nigeria will lock horns with Cameroon at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan tonight, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinal of the competition.
FC Nantes defender Castelleto and exciting Damac FC forward Nkoudou are facing uncertainties ahead of the clash against the Super Eagles due to health issues, suspected to be related to malaria.
According to Cameroun Actuel, the duo could not complete their training on Friday, displaying symptoms associated with the mosquito-borne disease.
Crucial elements in Cameroon’s campaign at the AFCON so far, Castelleto and Nkoudou have been ever-present in the starting lineup for all their three group matches.
Castelleto’s defensive nous has been evident, and he notably contributed Cameroon’s sole goal in the 3-1 loss to Senegal.
Meanwhile, Nkoudou’s playmaking ability shone through with three assists, including a pivotal pair in the 3-2 triumph over Gambia that secured Cameroon’s spot in the knockout stage.
This unexpected setback poses a significant challenge for Cameroonian coach Rigobert Song, who aimed to field his full team for the first time in the tournament.
The looming threat of malaria, prevalent in certain African regions, adds complexity to an already arduous task against Nigeria.
Nigeria, slight favourites for the encounter, boast an impressive record against Cameroon, having won 12 out of 25 encounters and lost only five in various competitions.
As of the latest update, all 25 Nigerian players have been declared fit for the showdown, further amplifying the pressure on Cameroon.