Wins for Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea leave host on the brink

The Super Eagles yesterday defeated Guinea Bissau 1-0 to cement their place in the second round of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations, but the shock of the day happened at the Allassane Quattara Stadium
Nigerian winger #11 Samuel Chukwueze (L) runs with the ball during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 group A football match between Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan on January 22, 2024. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

Nigeria’s forward #11 Samuel Chukwueze (L) runs with the ball during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 group A football match between Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan on January 22, 2024. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

The Super Eagles yesterday defeated Guinea Bissau 1-0 to cement their place in the second round of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations, but the shock of the day happened at the Allassane Quattara Stadium, Abidjan, where hosts, Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire, were beaten 4-0 by ‘minnows,’ Equatorial Guinea, who topped Group C with that result.
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Nigeria were tipped to overrun Guinea Bissau following the Wild Dogs’ poor outings in their first two games, which they lost 0-2 and 2-4 to Cote d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea respectively. But Guinea Bissau showed no sign of giving up, yesterday, as they gave Nigeria as much as they received in the game played at the Houphoet Boigny Stadium, Abidjan.

It took a 37th minute own-goal by Guinea Bissau’s defender, Opa Sangante, under pressure from Victor Osimhen, for Nigeria to get the winner.As has been the case at the ongoing championship, Nigeria created many chances, but poor marksmanship and uncoordinated play in the Guinea Bissau’s box robbed the Super Eagles of more goals in the encounter.

Guinea Bissau had their chances in the second half, but good goalkeeping by Stanley Nwabali denied them opportunity of drawing level in the game. When they eventually had the ball in the Nigerian net in the 83rd minute, DjuFranculino’s strike was ruled out for offside by the first female refereeing combo, led by Morocco’s Bouchra Karboubi. Nigeria also had a goal ruled out when Zaidu Sanusi’s 85th minute strike was adjudged to have been scored from an offside position.

Nigeria did not find a second goal but it mattered not, as they saw out the match to secure a victory that sees them safely through. The Super Eagles finished second in Group A, behind Equatorial Guinea, and will face Senegal, Guinea or Cameroon in the last-16.

Hosts, Cote d’Ivoire, were left to rue their inability to replace their golden generation of Didier Drogba, Kolo and Yaya Toure, among others, when hitherto unheralded Equatorial Guinea hammered them 4-0 to almost end their interest in the championship they are hosting for the second time.

Cote d’Ivoire needed at least a draw to qualify among the four-best third placed teams having lost to Nigeria 1-0 and beaten Guinea Bissau 2-0, but they met an Equatoguinean team that is serious about their ambition of getting to at least the semifinals of the competition.

Emilio Nsue, who is now the tournament’s top scorer with five goals, scored a double to follow up his hat-trick against Guinea-Bissau, as the National Thunder finished top of Group A ahead of Nigeria on goal difference.
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Cote d’Ivoire had previously failed to make the second round in the championship once in the previous nine editions, but the two-time champions, who spent more than $400 million in hosting the championship, will have to wait for the conclusion of other groups’ games to ascertain if they would continue featuring in the football fiesta. However, their three points may not suffice as many other third-placed teams may end up with four points.

The Ivoirians started brightly but struggled to create any clear-cut chances, with Oumar Diakite’s wild effort off target after a poor punch by Equatorial Guinea goalkeeper Jesus Owono their best opportunity in the opening 25 minutes.

Equatorial Guinea silenced the capacity filled stadium when right back, Carlos Akapo meandered through the Ivoirian defence just before the break to lay the ball for Nsue to finish expertly.

What the Ivoirians thought was the equaliser by Ibrahim Sangare was ruled out for offside by VAR.Thereafter, the Ivoirians started a wasteful run, with Pepe and Sangare electing to shoot wild off target.

Equatorial Guinea made them to pay for their profligacy when Pablo Ganet curled a wonderful free-kick into the top corner. The goal was quickly followed by an Nsue strike off a quick counter attack. With two minutes remaining in the game, the hosts were dealt another blow by Jannick Buyla, who placed a shot beyond the Elephant’s goalkeeper.
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