Wait For It: Eagles Hold On in Yaounde, But World Cup Qualification is Postponed

Published in Awa Football September 04 2017 font size decrease font size increase font size
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Nigeria match wey no give person heart attack, shey dat one na match’; So read a rather unknown tweet in November 2016, when the Super Eagles left it late to clinch a 3-1 win against Algeria in Uyo. They may not have shown such traits on Friday at home to Cameroon, when they dismantled their opponents, but in the return fixture in Yaounde there were more than a few Nigerian hearts in Nigerian mouths, particularly in the second period, and none more so than when goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa saved Arnaud Djoum’s deflected shot and rushed bravely to put himself in the way of the rebound. Few minutes before that, Ezenwa had encountered a not-so-impressive moment with Djoum, hauling down the Cameroonian man to give away a penalty, which was converted by substitute Vincent Aboubakar for the equaliser.

Gernot Rohr named an unchanged side from the impressive 4-0 hammering three days earlier, while for Hugo Broos the outcome of Friday’s defeat led to big calls in terms of dropping Aboubakar and Christian Bassogog to the bench, although the latter- with the troubles he gave Elderson Echiejile out wide after coming on- probably showed why he should have started from the off. Cameroon needed a win to keep alive their feeble hopes of going to Russia come next summer, and started on the front foot, just like they did on Friday. But, like Friday, they did next to nothing to trouble Ezenwa in goal, and the visitors grew into the game. It would be a tough ask for the Eagles to repeat their Friday performance, and they weren’t quite at that level, but on the half-hour mark they took the lead. Some good work by Odion Ighalo from an acute angle led to a mini-pinball situation in the Cameroon danger area, and the end result was Moses Simon rifling the eventual ricochet into the net. It was a dejavu feeling for the Indomitable Lions, leaving them deflated, and it could easily have been two in next to no time, but Ighalo’s rasping drive would fly just over the bar. And so both sides went into the break with just the one goal between them. The hosts were always likely to begin the second half in frantic and perhaps desperate mood, and they did, although Nigeria failed to capitalise on any breaks that came their way, dropping deeper and deeper, inviting pressure, as if assured that the Cameroonians would prove toothless. And for most part it looked to be case, as for all of Cameroon’s domination they rarely troubled the Eagles, and they would have gone further behind had Victor Moses’ shot not clipped the crossbar and gone out. But Cameroon would get a lifeline in the shape of the penalty, and they came mighty close to a winner only to be denied by Ezenwa, although that was their fate; coming close.

It ended 1-1, Cameroon had preserved their long-standing unbeaten home run, but that result left them just about out of qualification contention. Broos had said they needed a miracle before this game, but no one caught their ‘Hail Mary’. As for Nigeria, the body language of the coaching staff told its own story, it felt more like a point gained than two dropped. They may have to wait till October to clinch qualification, but that only seems like postponing the inevitable.

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