Nigeria’s Super Eagles quest of winning the Africa Cup of Nations will be put to test as the team face bitter rivals, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in the round of 16 at the Alexandria Stadium on Saturday.
Having finished second in group B, where the team defeated Burundi, Guinea and before losing to Madagascar in their last game, the three-time AFCON champions will be hoping to avoid a shock exit against a Cameroonian side that also finished second in group F.
Statistically, Nigeria and Cameroon have met in 22 previous matches. The Super Eagles have claimed 11 wins compared to four for the Indomitable Lions, while seven games have been drawn since their first meeting in 1968. Interestingly, the Indomitable Lions have defeated Nigeria three times in the final to lift the Africa Cup of Nations.
However, the last time both teams met at the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Nigeria trounced Cameroon 4-0 in the first leg before playing a 1-1 draw in the return fixture in Yaounde. Nigeria and Cameroon share eight African titles between them. While the Indomitable Lions have won five times (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002 and 2017), Nigeria were champions in 1980, 1994 and 2013.
Meanwhile, Super Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr has a major task of restoring the winning aura in the players after the 2-0 shocking defeat in the hands of Madagascar.
Although he has been criticized for rotating the players, however, it appears that the German tactician may be forced to stick with the starting eleven that played against Burundi, with the exemption of Onuachu.
There is no doubt that Rohr will be relying on players such as Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi, Odion Ighalo, and Samuel Chukwueze to shoulder the goalscoring responsibilities.
With injury worries to Mikel Obi and Shehu Abdullahi, Rohr is likely to stick with the team that started against Guinea.
Speaking ahead of the match, the former Bordeaux manager said he’s confident the team will rise up to the challenge.
“This is now that the real tournament is starting for us. And you have seen the fixtures which tell you that all the games will be tough even for Egypt. For us also we face a very very good team of Cameroon who had five points and we had six points scoring the same goals in the group stages.
“So we expect a very tough game and we have to prepare very well if we must overcome Cameroon. Since we play a day before them, I want to believe that we will have an advantage over Cameroon physically and mentally.
“Don’t forget that we lost against South Africa in our AFCON qualifying opener 2-0 before facing Cameroon. And the same also happened after Madagascar defeated us 2-0 and now we are facing Cameroon. I want to believe that it’s a good omen for us.
“After that disappointment against Madagascar, all the players are hungry to do well and we can only expect the best from them.
Cameroon manager, Clarence Seedorf will be banking on the services of PSG forward, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Clinton N’Jie, Stéphane Bahoken, and Christian Bassogog to help cause severe havoc on the Super Eagles defense line.
Seedorf will need to work on his team’s finishing ability. The defending champions only scored two goals in the group stage. One goal came off defender Yaya Banana’s head while the other was Stéphane Bahoken right-footed effort. Christian Bassogog is yet to register any impact on the tournament so is Clinton Njie.
PLAYER TO WATCH
The Leicester City defensive midfielder has been Nigeria’s finest player regardless of the little assist he made that led to Madagascar second goal in the Super Eagles final group B match. Agile and technically gifted, Ndidi will be Rohr’s key player against a Cameroonian side that will be physical in a bid to frustrate Nigeria.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting
If Cameroon are to make the quarter-final of the Africa Cup of Nations, then PSG’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting must be the player to deliver the job.
Tall, quick with the ball and a goal scorer if allowed space in the 18-yard box, Choupo-Moting has been a key figure for the Indomitable Lions and will once again be key on Saturday.
1 Daniel Akpeyi
6 Leon Balogun
22 Kenneth Omeruo
20 Chidozie Awaziem
2 Ola Aina
4 Wilfred Ndidi
8 Peter Etebo
15 Moses Simon
7 Ahmed Musa
18 Alex Iwobi
9 Odion Ighalo
1 André Onana
2 Collins Fai
22 Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik
5 Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui
3 Gaëtan Bong
8 André-Frank Zambo
14 Georges Mandjeck
6 Ambroise Oyongo
11 Christian Bassogog
7 Clinton N’Jie
17 Karl Toko Ekambi