Lookman, Osimhen star as Nigeria make light work of Cameroon



Lookman, Osimhen star as Nigeria make light work of Cameroon

Ademola Lookman was the star of the show as Nigeria's Super Eagles put up big performances all over the pitch to claim a 2-0 victory over archrivals Cameroon in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 on Saturday.

The Atalanta forward helped himself to a brace in what turned out to be a comfortable performance for the Super Eagles against a team they have suffered against in the past.

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Once again, Victor Osimhen was involved in creating opportunities for Nigeria. The Napoliman robbed Oumar Gonzalez of a ball he had no right to in the first half, shook off the attentions of the defender, and then kept his composure to make the best possible decision under pressure by playing in Lookman for a clean look at Fabrice Ondoa's goal.

In the 90th minute, Lookman was again in the right place at the right time to meet Calvin Bassey's sweetly laid on cross to finish a fine team goal for Nigeria and seal the victory. The victory means the Super Eagles have beaten and eliminated Cameroon for a third time in the knockout stages of AFCON and they now proceed to the quarterfinals where they will meet Angola on Friday. The Palancas Negras beat Namibia 3-0 in the earlier game. Here's what we took from another famous Nigeria win.


1. Nigeria looking comfortable defensively

The Super Eagles -- and their fans -- have been weaned and raised on a culture of swashbuckling, attacking football, driven by exciting wingers like Adokiye Amiesimaka, Segun Odegbami, Finidi George, Ammanuel Amunike and more feeding balls to the likes of Thunder Balogun, Rashidi Yekini, Daniel Amokachi and more recently Odion Ighalo. It is a culture of attacking football that has both entranced their fans and won over outsiders, especially during their halcyon years in the 90s.

Coaches have been fired for playing defensive, or dull football. But Jose Peseiro, despite having what is considered to be an embarrassment of attacking riches, has instead chosen to focus on disrupting that culture. Under the Portuguese, the Super Eagles are being remodeled on defensive discipline as a foundation. That was clearly evident against Cameroon, as it was against Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast during the group phase. And the Super Eagles appear to be thriving on it.

Cameroon's Indomitable Lions, like the other teams before them, barely got a sniff of Nigeria's goal. Goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali had next to nothing to do for the time he was on, and when he was subbed off with injury, Francis Uzoho did nothing but take goal kicks in the 12 minutes he was on the pitch.

These Super Eagles looked so comfortable in their new defensive skin, playing with such discipline and efficiency that even fans who usually would be up in arms about the defensive play were giving credit to Peseiro. As Cameroon coach Rigobert Song admitted in the post game conference: "We played against a very organized team." Is there a new culture being built?

2. Osimhen shows his all-round game

Osimhen is the star of the Nigeria show, and not just because he is the African Player of the Year. To rephrase that, he is the African Player of the year because of how good, exciting, talented and hard working he is. For emphasis, that hard work was in full display.

Joseph Yobo told ESPN before the start of the tournament that Osimhen needs to be protected against himself because he works so hard, both in training and in games, and that was in full display. The Napoli forward was at the tip of Nigeria's press, and that is how he created the first goal.

With Gonzalez dawdling on the ball, Osimhen picked his pocket, resisted the urge to go down even with his shirt being tugged, and then had the presence of mind to unselfishly play Lookman in open space for the finish. That was Nigeria's fourth goal of the tournament, and Osimhen was involved in all four.

He was so dangerous for the Cameroonians that he had the defense petrified every time he went near the ball and their solution was having him double- and even triple-teamed. Osimhen may not have scored, for the third game running, but he is the Super Eagles biggest offensive weapon and he is using it to the max. Without him, it is doubtful if Nigeria win this game.

3. Nigeria now hold the aces over Cameroon

To listen to the narrative, it would appear that Cameroon hold the hex over Nigeria. However, results prove otherwise. Prior to this game, the teams had met 17 times competitively. Nigeria lead that head head to head with nine wins to Cameroon's four. The reason Cameroon's wins hurt so much is because three of them came in AFCON finals; and of the three, two were under some arguably dodgy decision-making circumstances.

The last time Cameroon won a competitive game against Nigeria was in 2000. Serious. Yes, that was the AFCON final in Lagos, which rankles Nigerians to this day. Since then however, they have lost three games and drawn one. They lost 2-1 to Nigeria in the 2004 AFCON quarterfinals, were totally decimated 4-0 in the first leg of a World Cup qualifying tie in 2017 and were another disputed penalty kick away from losing the return leg in Yaounde. They were then defeated in the 2019 AFCON round of 16 game 3-2.

Saturday's defeat makes it four straight losses that the Indomitable Lions have suffered at the claws of the Super Eagles. Nigerians will tell you that while none of these in any way make up for the three AFCON final losses, it does show that just like South Africa's Bafana Bafana, the Indomitable Lions have now received Nigeria's lobola and have been effectively wifed and married by the Super Eagles, as the Nigerian saying goes.

Keywords: Africa Cup of Nations Ivory Coast AFCON

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