Amidst a plethora of block burster fixtures in the AFCON 2023 Round of 16 fixtures, the mouth watering clash between perennial rivals, the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon on Saturday in Abidjan stands out as an African classic.
Between both countries, they have eight AFCON titles in their kitty, with Cameroon boasting of five, a feat bettered only by Egypt (seven), while Nigeria has three.
Nigeria and Cameroon have clashed seven times at the AFCON, with each team winning thrice and drawing on one occasion.
Nigerian fans are still smarting from the fact that the Indomitable Lions gave the Super Eagles a bloody nose in three epic finals to lift the continental trophy (1984, 1988 and the most traumatic in Lagos in 2000).
Nigeria, however, got back some pound of flesh from the thirsty Lions in the 2019 AFCON in Egypt, when the Eagles came from behind to devour the Lions 3-2 in a thrilling knock out game.
On current form, the Super Eagles have the edge, but with the 2023 AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire already billed as the tournament of surprises, it will boil down to who wants it the most on Saturday in Abidjan.
While the Super Eagles went through the group stage unbeaten with seven points and just one goal conceded, the lacklustre Lions lost to Senegal and only squeezed through to the knock out stage thanks to a pulsating 3-2 win over Gambia in Bouake.
The Lions who have not roared at this tournament were on the verge of a shock exit at the hands of Gambia when two stoppage-time goals sent them through in dramatic fashion.
The Super Eagles have been solid and tight at the rear, but being clinical in from of goal still remains a nemesis, even with the fire power of current African footballer of the year, Victor Osimhen.
Jose Peseiro in his pre-match news conference on Friday said the Eagles would approach the match with a strategy to cage the Lions.
“I don’t want to concede goals tomorrow (Saturday), I want to score at least one. If we do this, we will beat Cameroon.
“We are in the round of 16 and playing against a great team. We don’t want to concede, we want to score a goal and maintain our lead,” Peseiro said.
Coach of of the Indomitable Lions, Rigobert Song, on the hand said the team would take the match seriously against a formidable Super Eagles, because there was no room for slips anymore.
“We started slowly, moving up gradually. At this stage of the competition, I think there are no more things to look for.
In three matches, I no longer have the right to calculate, I have to correct what didn’t work. I will do everything necessary to obtain a positive result,” Song said.
The highly anticipated match is slated for the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan by 9.00 p.m. (Nigerian time).
The Super Eagles are expected to be more at home at the stadium, having played two of their group matches there, while the Cameroonian team flew in from Yamoussoukro on Thursday.
But interestingly the iconic stadium is where the Indomitable Lions won their very first trophy in the competition in 1984 against the Super Eagles by 3-1. (NAN)