The Super Eagles of Nigeria showed admirable fighting spirit against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon by staging a stunning comeback in their AFCON 2019 round of 16 clashes at the Alexandria Stadium. With the victory, the Eagles silenced critics who had written them off after a sluggish performance against Madagascar in their final group match.
Here are five major talking points from the encounter.
1. Awaziem more than a capable replacement for Shehu
When Abdullahi Shehu got injured in the first match against Burundi and was ruled out indefinitely, it raised fears among Nigerians that his replacement, Chigozie Awaziem (a natural centre back) might struggle to deputise for him. But those fears are now a distant memory as Awaziem has proved to be even better than Shehu, and has subsequently featured in every game since. He has brought more assured presence to the backline with his timely tackles and interventions. Although critics have pointed out his lack of ability to attack, he ventured forward on some occasions against Cameroon and supplied the cross that led to the second goal.
2. Ighalo makes the attack tick
Odion Ighalo is gradually winning back the hearts of supporters after his dreadful performance at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. His recent goals have been very important for the Eagles. Although not fast and mobile enough against the Indomitable Lions, he displayed his instinctive finish ability by notching two goals, and his link-up plays with the other attackers — mainly when he came to life in the second half —was impressive, and thus supplied the assist for Iwobi’s winner.
3. Musa not at his best… yet
Over the years, Ahmed Musa has proven to be the Eagles’ saviour in international tournaments, but he hasn’t been at his best at the ongoing AFCON. He captained the side on Saturday in the absence of the injured Mikel but didn’t really trouble the Cameroonian defenders, although he made the assist for Ighalo’s equalizer.
4. The defence still jittery
The Super Eagles defence line had a woeful performance against Madagascar — particularly Leon Balogun. Although Kenneth Omeruo was restored to the lineup ahead of Balogun, the defence struggled to deal with the Cameroonian forwards, especially with aerial balls. This was evident in the scoreline as the Cameroonians who scored two goals in their three games at the group stage, scored two against the Super Eagles in the first half alone!
5. Chukwueze is a game changer
Although Moses Simon impressed before being replaced, his replacement, Samuel Chukwueze was far more impressive and changed the game with his direct running and crossings. And it was no surprise that the Eagles all came to life during that period and secured the victory.
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