The Super Eagles limped to a 1-0 win over pointless and hapless Wild Dogs of Guinea Bissau in an underwhelming game in Abidjan on Monday, in the process finishing in second place in group A behind a vicious Thunder of Equatorial Guinea that demolished host nation Cote d’Ivoire 4-0 to top the group.
The talking point on a rather vapid night in the Ivorian capital was the humiliation of the host nation, who are as good as having been thrown out of the competition without any mercy by a rampaging Equatorial Guinea side. Emilio
Nsue Lopez, who bagged the competition’s first hat-trick in 16 years in his country’s 4-2 demolition of Guinea Bissau on Thursday, netted a brace against the Elephants to race upwards as this tournament’s leading scorer with five goals.
There was little to report from the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny, with Nigeria failing to light up the arena and the Wild Dogs making wild moves that ended in no success and failing to carve open a Nigerian defence-line that looked suspect without William Ekong.
Victor Osimhen saw his drive from the right roll harmlessly away from goal before Opa Sangante, under pressure from Osimhen, put the ball into his own net behind goalkeeper and captain Jonas Asvedo Mendes for the match’s only goal in the 37th minute.
Two minutes into the second half, Moses Simon wasted a great opportunity after he was put through by Osimhen, and in the 56th minute, Osimhen’s header from a pull-out by Ola Aina went slightly away. Aina himself wasted a golden opportunity in the 69th minute and at the other end, goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali had to be alert to punch away a free-kick by substitute Fali Cande.
The victory lifted Nigeria to seven points, but Thunder’s ferocious display at the Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara against the host nation kept them at the top on goals difference from Nigeria.
The Elephants’ virtual elimination is a repeat of their performance when Cote d’Ivoire hosted the competition in 1984. They defeated Togo 3-0 in their first match only to lose 1-2 to Egypt and 0-2 to eventual winners Cameroon to crash out at group stage.
The Super Eagles will play the second-placed team in group C in their Round of 16 encounter at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny on Saturday.