Nigeria 3-2 Cameroon: 5 Talking Points | 2019 Africa Cup of Nations

Nigeria have qualified for the quarterfinals of the 2019 African Cup of Nations
Nigeria have qualified for the quarterfinals of the 2019 African Cup of Nations
Elvis Ume O

In what was undoubtedly the biggest clash of the second round, Nigeria and Cameroon locked horns at the Alexandria Stadium for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Both nations are among the heavyweights on the continent, having won eight Nations Cup titles between them with Nigeria's latest triumph coming in 2013 while Cameroon are defending champions.

The central African nation booked their spot in this stage courtesy of a second place finish in group F, while Nigeria also finished as runners up to Madagascar in Group B.

In light of their victory against their fierce rivals, the Super Eagles of Nigeria have booked their spot in the last eight and would now face off in Cairo on July 10 against South Africa for a place in the last four.

A brace by Odion Ighalo and a calm finish from Alex Iwobi was enough to see Nigeria complete a comeback victory and in this piece, we shall be highlighting five talking points from the African Cup Of Nations 2019.

#5 Odion Ighalo saves the day for Nigeria

Ighalo was the star of the show
Ighalo was the star of the show

Ever since Odion Ighalo made his international debut for Nigeria in March 2015, he has not really been many people's cup of tea, as a lot of fans saw his profligacy in front of goal as harmful to Nigeria's chances of success.

This loathing reached an all-time high at the 2018 World Cup where the 30-year-old missed a number of chances, before coming out to state that he seriously considered quitting the national team after he allegedly received death threats, with his wife coming out on social media to blast his critics.

However despite the widespread consternation, coach Gernot Rohr stuck with him and the former Watford man repaid his coach's faith handsomely. Ighalo was the star in the Nations Cup qualifying rounds with six goals to finish as the highest goalscorer and help his country qualify for the Nations Cup for the first time since 2013.

He has continued from where he left off in the ongoing tournament, scoring the only goal in Nigeria's opening match against Burundi. But Ighalo faced backlash over his decision to shoot at goal when teammate Ahmed Musa was in a better position in the second game against Guinea.

However in Nigeria's toughest game so far, the Shanghai Shenhua forward was undoubtedly the star of the show as he opened the scoring in the 19th minute off a deflection by Yaya Banana, before equalizing in the 63rd minute with a well taken finish.

Just three minutes later, he was instrumental in Nigeria taking the lead as he played in a perfectly weighted through ball for teammate Alex Iwobi to finish with aplomb.

In what was a complete center-forward's performance, Odion Ighalo was hugely instrumental in Nigeria qualifying for the quaterfinals and 200 million of his compatriots back home would be hoping he can keep up with the good form to see them all the way to their fourth Nations Cup triumph.

#4 Defensive blunders almost cost Nigeria

Kenneth Omeruo made some defensive blunders
Kenneth Omeruo made some defensive blunders

It is a well known fact that Nigera has struggled in the goalkeeping department since the departure of the legendary Vincent Enyeama and the unfortunate Leukemia diagnosis of Carl Ikeme, with Gernot Rohr tinkering between Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi and Francis Uzoho to little avail.

However, the center of defence had not really been an issue, as the 'oyibo wall' pairing of Leon Balogun and William Troost Ekong had held it down for the best part of the last two years.

However Balogun's struggles at Brighton last season coupled with Kenneth Omeruo's resurgence at Leganes saw the former dropped to the bench in favor of the Chelsea loanee and he justified his selection with a well taken goal in the game against Guinea.

Leon Balogun was introduced in his stance in the final group game against Madagascar and fluffed his lines, gifting the Barea a goal in the opening 15 minutes.

Omeruo was restored to the starting lineup against Cameroon, but was partly responsible for both goals conceded, as he failed to track the runs of both Stephane Bahoken and Clinton N'Jie.

In goal, Daniel Akpeyi was also jittery on occasion, failing to inspire confidence with the simplest of saves and could have conceded some ridiculous goals but for good fortune.

On the day, Nigeria's defense was rather poor, but their attack came to the rescue but moving ahead, Kenneth Omeruo and co would have to d much better.

#3 Both teams came all out and provided excitement

The clash between these two heavyweights lived up to its hype
The clash between these two heavyweights lived up to its hype

Both teams' pedigree on the continental and international stage meant that this was the most anticipated clash of the round-of-16.

Most times, such highly publicized fixtures rarely live up to expectation, as both teams usually play it safe to avoid elimination and this is especially holds true on the African continent where physicality is favored over aesthetics.

However, this fixture went totally against the norm, as both sides came all out for the victory, with the result being that we were treated to what can be considered the best match of the tournament so far.

In what was an explosive start, Nigeria went ahead in th 19th minute, but went into the break with a deficit as two quick fire goals from Bakohen and N'jie saw Cameroon take the advantage.

In the second half, it was Nigeria's turn to take the lead in an instant, as two goals in three minutes saw the West African nation go in front and this was a lead they maintained for the remainder of the game.

Elsewhere, other statistics also underlined just how open a contest this was, with Cameroon fashioning a total of nine shots of which three were on target, while Nigeria made 12 attempts at the Cameroonian goal and had six on target.

Nigeria had six corners to Cameroon's seven and for the entirety of the match, the end-to-end action meant that it was anybody's game to win.

While the the 2019 Nations Cup has had more than its fair share of dour and uninspiring matches, Nigeria and Cameroon served us a classic which would go down in history as one of the most exciting Nations Cup clashes.

#2 Nigeria is stronger without John Obi Mikel

Nigeria v Iceland: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Nigeria v Iceland: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

John Obi Mikel has undoubtedly been Nigeria's biggest footballing export in the last two decades, representing Chelsea with distinction for over 10 years and has won virtually everything winnable at club level.

With 88 caps won, the 32-year-old has been an undeniable loyal servant of the Nigerian national team since making his debut in 2006 as a fresh faced youngster.

Since his appointment, Gernot Rohr has shown an inkling for sticking with his skipper and despite the Jos native not playing a part in any of Nigeria's qualifiers en route this tournament, Mikel was handed a start in Nigeria's opening game against Burundi.

On evidence of his performance, it is safe to say that despite his status as a bonafide legend, Mikel's inclusion in the Nigerian starting lineup massively hinders their play.

Anytime he has started, Mikel is usually deployed in the hole behind the attackers. While Oghenekaro Etebo and the tireless Wilfred Ndidi act as the shield for the defence and the downside to this tactical variation is that the midfield usually looks static as all three men are found wanting in technique and pace.

In Mikel's absence, Alex Iwobi takes his place behind the attackers and on evidence of his displays in that role so far, he is a much better fit than the Nigerian No. 10 as the Arsenal man possesses the trickery, pace and technique to trouble opposition defenses.

This takes nothing away from John Obi Mikel and it must be stated that this writer holds him in the highest esteem. But like every other good thing, his spell with the Nigerian team must come to an end and a run all the way to the final could give him the fitting farewell that his legendary career deserves.

#1 Cameroon's poor record against Nigeria continues

The Indomitable Lions are without victory against Nigeria from open play since 1989
The Indomitable Lions are without victory against Nigeria from open play since 1989

Nigeria and Cameroon have been regular opponents over the years, as both nation's status means that they are expected to be in the latter stages of major tournaments.

However for all of Cameroon's prowess on the African scene, the Indomitable Lions are without victory against Nigeria from open play since 1989.

Though the five-time Nations Cup winners triumphed over Nigeria in the final of the 2000 Nations Cup in their own backyard, that was after a 2-2 draw in regular time, with the showpiece event decided by a penalty shootout.

Since that clash in 2000, both sides have met a total of six times with Nigeria winning all but one.

The last time both sides met in the Nations Cup, Nigeria ran out 2-1 winners in Tunisia 2004 while the Super Eagles also got a 4-0 home win and a 1-1 draw in the qualifications series for the 2018 World Cup.

Clarence Seedorf would have been looking to overturn Cameroon's recent poor record against Nigeria, but Gernot Rohr's men had other ideas and with their victory, they have ensured that Cameroon's poor record against them goes on.

Edited by Alan John


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