- As Ighalo’s goal wins bronze for Super Eagles
BY COBHAM NSA – Nigeria on Wednesday night claimed third place in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament, thanks to obvious disastrous defending from their North African opponents, Tunisia.
In the match decided inside Al Salam Stadium, popularly called Cairo Military Production Stadium, Odion Ighalo was gifted an early goal in the third minute of play.
The China-based striker was on hand to stab home the ball after a Tunisian defender had mistimed a left-footed cross by Jamiu Collins to gift the Super Eagles of Nigeria a narrow 1-0 victory in the third place match.
Indeed, Tunisia goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia and defender Yassine Meriah will rue their combined error of judgment that teed up Ighalo to increase his goal haul in the competition to five in seven matches.
The hard-fought win was enough to see Nigeria maintaining its perfect record in third-place play-offs in the continental soccer fiesta.
On a day that the Tunisian Carthage Eagles failed to turn up for the party, Coach Gernot Rohr surprised many by using all three substitutes for the first time in Super Eagles’ outings in Egypt.
First to be substituted was goal scorer, Ighalo who picked up an injury just before half time. He was replaced by Victor Oshimen playing his first match in the AFCON competition.
Also, match day captain, Ahmed Musa had to make way for Moses Simon while Samuel Kalu got the opportunity to have a good feel of the championship when he was called upon to replace Samuel Chukwueze in the game’s dying minutes.
The 30-year-old Ighalo, who scored his fifth goal in the continental tournament, is on line for the tournament’s top scorer and Golden boot award.
The encounter also had German-born Technical Adviser Rohr preferring Francis Uzoho, who was making his first appearance in the competition, in goal ahead of Daniel Akpeyi. In the right back position, Ola Aina replaced Chidozie Awaziem, suspended for the Tunisian encounter after accumulating two yellow cards during the Group B matches as well as the knock-out stages.
With Ighalo further strengthening his chances of winning the AFCON’s Golden Boot, both Adam Ounas or Sadio Mane will need to score a hat-trick in the final match between Desert Foxes of Algeria and Teranga Lions of Senegal on Friday to overtake Ighalo on the goal chart. – With agency reports