After a woeful display against Madagascar at the same venue, it was a wonderful day to be Nigerian as the Super Eagles finally made Nigeria proud at the ongoing Total AFCON 2019 in Egypt.
The Super Eagles came from behind, having initially led, to see off fierce rivals, Cameroon, 3-2 in their round of 16 match in Alexandria on Saturday.
Odion Ighalo was undoubtedly the star of the day after he was involved in three of the goals scored by Nigeria.
He netted the opener to put Nigeria 1-0 up, and with the Indomitable Lions leading 1-2, he was at it again with the equaliser just three minutes after the hour mark.
From scorer of goals to the maker, Ighalo channelled his inner Mesut Ozil (of course, in his prime) to set up Alex Iwobi for the winner, three minutes after his second of the evening.
Therefore, since three seems to be the lucky number, Ighalo on three goals, Nigeria turning the game around in three minutes, here are my three takeaways from a nail-biting but sweet win.
Ighalo needs to be quicker
Of course, this will come as a surprise to many after his heroics against Cameroon and considering the fact that Ighalo is not just top joint-scorer in the tournament but has also been involved in four of the five goals scored by Nigeria at the AFCON 2019.
But that’s exactly the point – he could have had more, even against the ‘Domitable’ Lions of Cameroon.
Ighalo has had situations where he needed to react quicker with his decision-making, especially inside the box but didn’t.
His goals so far have come when he finally did react quicker. His movement and positioning are very good which is something the giant Paul Onuachu has failed to bring to the table each time he has had the opportunity to replace the 29-year-old.
We did miss a great opportunity against Madagascar to see if the younger Victor Osimhen can provide the complete set but the experienced Ighalo can be really unstoppable if he can be quicker than we have seen from him so far.
Samuel Chukwueze has reclaimed his place
After Nigeria’s opening game of the tournament against debutants Burundi, I rated Samuel Chukwueze aka Samu very low which raised quite a dust (as expected).
Samu was his usual self, full of skills and trickery, but for me, I was hardly impressed as I felt he didn’t use his ability for the benefit of the team.
However, while I didn’t expect Gernot Rohr to totally forget about the lad thereafter, on Saturday, Samu used just 30 minutes to stake claims to a recall to the first eleven.
Coming on for Moses Simon moments after the hour mark as Rohr decided to throw caution to the wings with Cameroon comfy 1-2 up, the 19-year-old was a breath of fresh air as he made an immediate impact and totally changed the dynamics of the game.
The Villarreal starboy became Nigeria’s most potent attacking outlet and this forced the Cameroonians to a more defensive mode, allowing the Super Eagles to attack more.
It wasn’t long and there was a complete turnaround. In fact, it took just five minutes following his introduction for the Super Eagles to complete the comeback with Samu creating the most chances, three.
An excellent cameo which sends a clear message to his manager, Rohr, ‘over to you’, ahead of the quarter-final encounter against South Africa on Wednesday.
Omeruo is human
Kenneth Omeruo has arguably been one of Nigeria’s better performers at the AFCON 2019, if not the best, but against the Lions, he was anything but.
The two goals we conceded I will put the blame on him for. His positioning for the first was poor as he failed to read the danger probably and missed his clearance which allowed Stephane Bahoken to cancel out Ighalo’s opener.
For the second goal, once again Omeruo failed to defend probably and was easily beaten in the air which saw the ball fall kindly to Clinton Njie. I know some will say Ola Aina should have done better with the second ball, but the mistake started from the 2013 AFCON winner.
A shaky display from him, but hopefully, it is a blip because he will obviously start against the Bafana Bafana in Wednesday’s last eight match.