Thunders of Equatorial Guinea Blur Super Eagles of Nigeria Sight, plays 1-1 in AFCON Match

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By Eniola Olatunji 

The National Thunder of Equatorial Guinea on Sunday at the Alassane Quattara Stadium Abidjan blurred the vision of Three times African Champions, the Super Eagles of Nigeria ending their Group A encounter of the African Cup of Nations one goal apiece.

Poland based Ivan Salvador Edu who got a thorough pass from Pepin kicked a not too impressive shot that went through a cluster of legs of Nigerian defenders in the 36th minute for the first ever goal the Thunders will ever score against Nigeria which will be a galvanizer of confidence to them for subsequent matches.

African Footballer of the year, Victor Osimhen got a telegraphic pass from Ademola Lookman from the left flank and headed it into the net 38th minute for an equalizer that many thought will usher in an avalanche of goals but no for Osimhem missed more than eight glaring opportunities that would have kept the Thunders at bay.

The Ref is a 32 year old South African, Tom Abongile who supervised the hard tackles of the Thunder boys. Nigerian players were falling like pack of cards especially Ola Aina in the defence. In the process of hard tackles, Royal Antwerp of Belgium player, Alhassan Yusuf Abdullahi perhaps the best Nigerian player on the pitch was hacked down by the ‘if you miss the ball, don’t miss the leg tactics of the Thunder boys of Equatorial Guinea. He was stretchered off and replaced 69th minute by Joe Aribo.

Incidentally, match statistics show Nigeria was rougher with 13-11 fouls; there were 2-1 yellow cards for E-Guinea; Nigeria’s goalkeeper, Nwabili was hardly tested as E-Guinea only had one shot on target against Nigeri’s 7 from 18-7 shots for Nigeria. Nigeria’s defence played better than previous outings but Nigeria’s Attackers were not clinical in front of goal. They also need a play maker to supply balls to Osimhem.

Ivory Coast leads Group A with 3 points and 2 goals Nigeria is 2nd with one point and a goal; Equatorial Guinea is 3rd with one point and a goal like Nigeria while Guinea Bissau rocks the bottom with no point and no goal.

Equatorial Guinea faces Guinea Bissau on Thursday 18th January at the Olympic Stadium at 3pm while at 6pm Nigeria’s Super Eagles will test strength against the Elephants of Ivory Coast at the same venue in the second round matches of Group A.

Bissau had beaten Nigeria’s Super Eagles 1-0 on 24th March 2023 in Nigeria with the goal scored by Balde in the 29th minute. This result is what was making football pundits think if this country can beat Nigeria on home soil, why not Equatorial Guinea in Abidjan?

Nigeria ranked 42 in the world is making her 26th appearance at AFCON. She is three times champion with some impressive podium finish. She got Bronze at Ethiopia 76 beating Egypt 3-2; bagged another Bronze in Ghana 78 beating Tunisia 2-0; won in Lagos at 1980 beating Algeria 3-0; got the Silver in three consecutive competitions – Ivory Coast 1984 losing to Cameroon 3-1, at Morocco 88 losing again to Cameroon 0-1 and Algeria 90 losing to Algeria by a lone goal.

Nigeria got Bronze at Senegal 92 beating rivals Cameroon 2-1; became champions at Tunisia 94 with a 2-1 win over Zambia; again lost to Cameroon when Nigeria/Ghana hosted in 2000 via 4-3 penalty shootouts after 2-2 scores to bag the Silver; Got the Bronze with a lone goal victory over Mali at Mali 2002; back to Tunisia in 2004 Nigeria won Bronze with a lone goal victory over Senegal; at Egypt 2006 Nigeria again beat Senegal 1-0 to win the Bronze; in 2010 at Angola Nigeria beat Algeria by a lone goal to win Bronze; she came back at South Africa 2013 under Stephen Keshi to win the trophy beating the Stallions of Burkina Faso by a lone goal scored by Sunday Mba and in 2019 she got the Bronze at Egypt in a lone goal victory over Tunisia. Please note that only podium finish records are presented concerning Nigeria.

Equatorial Guinea is ranked 88 and appearing for the 4th time as she co-hosted with Gabon in 2015 with a no show performance but hosted in 2015 and ended up with the 4th place in Malabo after losing via penalty kicks 2-4 and the real match goalless to Democratic Republic of Congo.

Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea met thrice. Nigeria won all the matches with 1-0 victory on 15th June 2008 in the world cup and a return match played in Nigeria on 21st June 2023 ending 2-0. There was an AFCON encounter on 24th January that ended 3-1 in favor of Nigeria.

The last five matches of Equatorial Guinea were not Uhuru. On 7th October 2023 she played 1-1with Liberia in Monrovia in AFCON match; played goalless with Burkina Faso in a Friendly on 13th October 2023; defeated Namibia by a lone goal in a world cup match on 15th November 2023; on 21st November 2023 she got an encore victory on Liberia in a world cup match again with Liberia playing home; on 9th January 2024 she played 1-1 with Djibouti in a friendly.

Nigeria played 2-2 draw with Saudi Arabia in a friendly played in Portugal on 14th October 2023 and on the 19th of October beat Mozambique 3-2 in another friendly on the same pitch in Portugal; Nigeria played an amazing 1-1 draw with Lesotho in a world cup match on 17th October of November 2023; she again played 1-1 with Zimbabwe in another world cup match on the 19th of November 2023 and on 8th January 2024 Nigerians were stunned with 0-2 loss to Guinea in a friendly match in Nigeria.

Nigeria has been in encouragement euphoria with a calculation that players might go home with N42m or $35m match bonuses if they win their seven matches at AFCON. The break down shows that each player is to collect $5k for winning a match and multiplied by seven means good haul of $35K but the prize money may increase at the knockout stages Team Captain Ahmed Musa at a press conference in Abidjan said they are not interested in talking about money for their talking will be on the field.

Well, the Federal Government of Nigeria cleared all the outstanding bonuses owed by previous governments shortly before the Eagles flew to Abidjan in princely attire.

Later today, Egypt will meet Mozambique in Group B at 6pm while another of the group B match is at 9pm between Ghana and Cape Verde both at the Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan.

Tomorrow Monday Senegal will open the day against Gambia at the Konan Banny Stadium, Yamoussoukro at 2pm in group C and the second group C match will be played at 6pm between Cameroon and Guinea while a group D match between Algeria and Angola is at 9pm at the Stade de la Paix Bouake

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