Nigeria will battle Cameroon in the Round of 16 of the 34th Africa Cup of Nations after the five-time champions edged The Gambia 3-2 in a see-saw group C finale in Bouake on Tuesday.
Between them, continental giants Nigeria and Cameroon have eight Africa Cup of Nations titles, with the Eagles champions of Africa in 1980, 1994 and 2013, while the Lions triumphed in 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, and 2017.
Incidentally, Nigeria was the fall guy for Cameroon’s first three wins, with the first of those coming right inside the same Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan that will host Saturday night’s Round of 16 duel. The Lions won 3-1, despite Nigeria going in front after 10 minutes through Mudashiru Babatunde Lawal.
In 1988, Nigeria felt cheated when Mauritanian referee Idrissa Sarr disallowed a goal by Henry Nwosu in the first half at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca. Emmanuel Kunde scored from the spot in the second period to win it for the Lions.
In 2000, as co-hosts, Nigeria fell behind 0-2 in a memorable final with goals from Samuel Eto’o and Patrick Mboma, before Raphael Chukwu Ndukwe and Jay-Jay Okocha restored parity. The Lions went ahead to win 4-3 after a penalty shootout at the National Stadium, Lagos.
The Lions successfully defended their title in Mali two years later, defeating Senegal on penalties inside Bamako’s Stade on March 26, and then came from behind to edge Egypt 2-1 in Libreville in 2017.
However, Nigerians will remember with a song in their heart the Super Eagles’ triumph over the Lions in the quarter-finals in Tunisia in 2004, and in the Round of 16 in Egypt in 2019, as well as the 4-0 win over the neighbors in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match in Uyo in 2017 that paved the way for Nigeria’s qualification for Russia 2018.
In Alexandria in 2019, also in the Round of 16, eventual tournament top scorer Odion Ighalo scored two of goals in a 3-2 win, with midfielder Alex Iwobi netting the winner from a fabulous assist by Ighalo.
Saturday’s encounter will begin at 8 pm Cote d’Ivoire time (9 pm Nigeria time).