Nigeria’s goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali stands on the brink of history as the Super Eagles lock horns with Cameroon in the last 16 round of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire.
Expected to maintain his role as the first-choice goalkeeper, Nwabali’s meteoric rise in the past two months has thrust him into a position where he could rewrite the record books for his country.
What historical feat is within Nwabali’s grasp?
He could become the first Nigerian goalkeeper to secure a clean sheet against Cameroon in the AFCON. A statistic that has eluded the Super Eagles in their seven previous encounters at the continental championships, facing the Indomitable Lions.
Quality has not been lacking in Nigeria’s goalkeeping department over the years.
In the 1984 AFCON final, Patrick Okala, brother of the legendary Emmanuel Okala, manned the goal for Nigeria, yet Cameroon emerged triumphant with a 3-1 victory to claim their maiden title.
Peter Rufai, guarding the net during the 1988 group stage, saw a 1-1 draw unfold, only to concede in the final, resulting in Nigeria losing another AFCON trophy to the Lions.
The narrative continued at the 1992 AFCON in Senegal when Nigeria secured their first AFCON win over Cameroon in the third-place match.
However, goalkeeper Alloysius Agu could not keep a clean sheet in the 2-1 victory.
The year 2000 witnessed Ike Shorunmu conceding twice in a 2-2 draw during the final, ultimately leading to Cameroon’s victory in penalties.
One of Nigeria’s greatest goalkeepers of all time, Vincent Enyeama, stood guard in the 2004 quarterfinals as the Super Eagles orchestrated a memorable 2-1 win over the Indomitable Lions. Even the former Lille hero could not help Nigeria secure a clean sheet.
Still, Cameroon found the net twice as Nigeria secured a 3-2 victory at the 2019 edition of the continental championships, with Daniel Akpeyi between the posts.
As Nwabali prepares for tonight’s showdown in Abidjan, the question looms: Can the Chippa United shot-stopper break the streak and achieve what the legendary goalkeepers before him could not — keeping a clean sheet against Cameroon?
All eyes are on Nwabali as he aims to etch his name in AFCON history.
NB: We apologize for the error in stating Emmanuel Okala as Nigeria’s goalkeeper in the 1984 AFCON final; it was, in fact, Patrick Okala. We’ve corrected the mistake and appreciate your understanding.