AFCON 2019: Why Nigeria May Shock Cameroon

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WHY NIGERIA MAY SHOCK CAMEROON
…THE MUDA, KESHI CONNECTIONS

BY ORI MARTINS

Soccer loving Nigerians are worried that the Super Eagles may not survive the round of 16 fixture against the Lions of Cameroon in Egypt 2019 Nations Cup Finals. This fear is well founded. Cameroon has denied Nigeria Nations Cup glory a couple of times.

However, based on historical antecedents, Super Eagles may gloriously perch and poke on the Lions on the day. This is so because Nigeria has yet to fall to Cameroon in the Nations Cup other than in the final games. In all other AFCON games other than the final encounters, the Lions have never devoured the Eagles.

For instance, in Maroc ’88, Nigeria and Cameroon played a 1-1 draw in a group game. The late Sam Okwaraji got Nigeria’s goal and that strike was both symbolic and significant in two ways: it was the quickest goal of the tournament and it was the only goal conceded by Lions’ keeper Antoine Belle in the tournament.

In Senegal ’92, both teams met in the third place game and Nigeria defeated Cameroon on January 25, 1992 with beautiful goals from Friday Ekpo and Rashidi Yekini. In Tunisia 2004, in the quarter final match, Nigeria, on February 8, in a city called Moastir, defeated Cameroon with classic goals from captain Austin Jay Jay Okocha (free kick) and John Utaka (off Nwankwo Kanu’s brilliant pass).

Therefore, since Nigeria hardly loses to Cameroon in Nations Cup games unless it’s in a final match, the Lions may most likely not be the “jungle” king at the end of the day.

It must also be pointed out that two players, Muda Lawal and Stephen Keshi played unconscious roles in Eagles continued losses to Lions in AFCON final games in ’84, ’88 and ‘2000. Muda, like Emmanuel Amuneke scored mysterious goals for Nigeria – any time he scored, no other Nigerian player would score.

The only exception was his opening goal against Tanzania in 1980 Nations Cup which Eagles won 3 – 1. Yet, it was Muda that scored the goal of the tournament in the memorable final against Algeria , 3 – 0. Veteran sports analysts and Nigeria’s most capped World Cup reporter, Kunle Solaja confirmed this in his book, Super Eagles Through the Ages. So, it was very clear that the moment Muda Lawal got Eagles first goal in the final against Cameroon on March 18, 1984 on the final day of AFCON, Nigeria was in trouble. Of course, Cameroon equalised and went ahead to score two more goals. It was Muda’s last Nations Cup appearance but he had set a record against Cameroon that worked against Nigeria but in favour of Cameroon in 1988 and 2000.

Stephen Keshi was the captain in 1984. After the encounter, Keshi swapped his jersey with that of Stephen Tawtaw who eventually lifted the Nations Cup for the first time for Cameroon in Nigeria’s colours. Again in 1988, the same Keshi did the same thing again, he swapped his jersey with Emmanuel Kunde who ultimately stepped forward and lifted the Nations Cup in Nigeria’s colours after beating the Eagles 1-0. Keshi was an assistant coach in 2000 when Cameroon beat Nigeria in Lagos on February 13 and it was Sunday Oliseh who exchanged his jersey with Rigobert Song to lift the Nations Cup. The revelation here is Cameroon lifted her first three Nations Cup titles at the expense of Eagles and in the green -white -green colours of Nigeria. It was made possible by Muda’s mysterious goals as well as Keshi’ jersey swapping mystics.

Incidentally, both players are dead and so the jinx their mystical performance created for Nigeria is also ended. Eagles will fly higher and above the Lions.

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