The 4-0 humiliation of Cameroon on Friday is a major story on its own. Never mind the presence of agitators for Southern Cameroon, with their blue flags, among the spectators on the stands in Uyo. Never mind the absence of the “spirit” that had made Uyo a curse for Nigeria’s home games. All those are distractions. Even if they were not, the big story remains the victory on Friday. But how did it happen?
I break the game into six quarter hours to try to review, in some detail, what occurred in Uyo on Friday. Perhaps, it may expose one or few things or at least shed some light, no matter how dim it may be.
The first quarter hour (1-15 minutes)
Cameroon attacked, surprisingly. The story line going into this game is that with four points as a goal, Cameroon would be better served to defend and kill off the game hoping for a draw in Uyo and then try to take three points at home in Yaounde. Evidently, Coach Broos thought otherwise. Instead, he revved up his attacking engine. Though Cameroon seemed more comfortable in possession they rarely broke down Nigeria’s fortress manned by Balogun. Rohr had largely kept his wide backs home, nullifying Cameroon’s speed down the flanks.
The second quarter hour (16-30 minutes)
With Cameroon still in ascendancy, Nigeria was gradually settling down after Cameroon’s surprising decision to attack. Nigeria then had its first sniff at goal with Moses failing to put a chance away. Then Nigeria had the ball in the net, which was correctly disallowed. These were signs that Nigeria was coming out cautiously but increasingly finding space with Ighalo forcing Cameroon’s two central defenders into two yellow cards. Ighalo was to take advantage of this to score late in this quarter hour.
The third quarter hour (31 minutes – halftime)
Nigeria was on top now even though Cameroon was down by a goal. Nigeria was constantly finding spaces wide with Cameroon pushing forward at every opportunity. Moses and Simon were winning their battles. The second goal coming just before the interval was important because it demonstrated the ability to finish off chances that were increasingly available to Nigeria.
The fourth quarter hour (46-60 minutes)
Nigeria was largely on top. On the other side, Cameroon’s Aboubakar was not getting service nor was he finding space against a defense that was determined not to give an inch. Nigeria’s third goal underlined the speed of Nigeria’s counter attacks that repeatedly cut out Cameroon and had acres of space to work with. Cameroon was being overrun and even though Nigeria hardly dominated the ball, it felt like Nigeria would score at every opportunity because there were less Cameroon defenders to close down on the ball.
The fifth quarter hour (61-75 minutes)
The game had considerably slowed down in this quarter hour as Nigeria assumed a three-goal lead. Nigeria begun to kill off the game and some players begun a routine of showboating. Cameroon, obviously dispirited, did little to suggest an ability to get back into the game.
The final quarter hour (76-90 minutes)
Nigeria scored early with a diving header by substitute Iheanacho. The goal marked a long time that Nigeria recorded an assist in all its goals. This time it was Onazi as provider of the assist. Cameroon gave it a few attempts late but the reality was that even Cameroon was waiting for the final whistle and another opportunity to seek victory in Yaounde on Monday.