How Eguavoen Recreated History In AFCON After Guinea Bissau Victory
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By Amaechi Agbo
Rewind the clock and it was 2006 Africa Cup of Nations, 25th edition hosted by Egypt. Super Eagles were paired in Group D with Senegal, Ghana and Zimbabwe.
Coached by former defender, Augustine Eguavoen, he guided the team in winning all the three matches in the group with 1-0 against Ghana, 2-0 against Zimbabwe and 2-1 victory over Senegal.
In the 2021 edition of the tournament, 33rd overall, Eguavoen again, repeated history. Paired again in Group D but this time with Egypt, Sudan and Guinea Bissau, the former Enyimba coach also recorded three wins out of there matches scoring 6 goals in all.
First was a 1-0 opening group match win against Egypt on January 11 followed by a 3-1 victory against Sundan on 15 and on Wednesday, January 19th, a 2-0 triumph over Guinea Bissau rapped up an excellence Group performance for the Super Eagles.
The Eagles had emerged group winners before taking to the turf of Stade Roumdé Adjia in Garoua, but needed to win for Head Coach Augustine Eguavoen to accomplish a repeat of his one hundred per cent group phase record set at the 25th AFCON in Egypt 16 years ago.
The former defender made eight changes to the starting line-up, but Nigeria still created a hatful of chances in the opening half-hour only for forward Sadiq Umar to fail to convert the opportunities, which mostly came his way.
In the third minute, he was slow to pull the trigger inside the opposition’s box, and 20 minutes later cocked up a great move and pass by midfielder Kelechi Nwakali.
Nine minutes earlier, defender Semi Ajayi had come close with a header from Nwakali’s corner. Just before half time, the Wild Dogs could have gone ahead when Fernando Barbosa Intima was presented a free sight of goal only for him to hit the ball fra away from where it could have troubled goalkeeper Francis Uzoho.
In the second half, Nigeria stepped up a gear and it was left for Kelechi Iheanacho, who scored the only goal in the match against Egypt on the opening day, to take matters into his own hands. He exchanged passes with midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and then slipped into the box to pop the ball past goalkeeper Maurice Gomis for Umar to have tap into the net. This was in the 55th minute
The introduction of the brilliant Moses Simon and Peter Olayinka in the 56th minute buoyed Nigeria’s forward play even more. But the Dogs could have equalized on the hour mark when a free kick by Samba Balde hit a Nigerian defender and sliced past Uzoho’s goalpost.
In the 75th minute, it was time for Simon to take matters into his own hands. He received the ball on the left wing and darted past three defenders before rocking the crossbar with a ferocious shot. The ball came off the underside of the bar, but Ekong was there to toe-poke into the net.
With 10 minutes left, Uzoho was rattled by a shot as the Dogs poured forward, but another defence –confounding run by Simon at the end almost gifted Nigeria a third goal.
The Eagles await one of the third –placed teams from any of groups B, E and F in Sunday’s Round of 16 at the now –familiar Stade Roumdé Adjia.