By Olawale Alabi
Garoua (Cameroon), Jan. 23, 2022
Title favourites Nigeria crashed out of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) on Sunday in Garoua after a 0-1 loss to Tunisia who now advance to the competition’s quarter-finals.
In the Round of 16 match at the Stade Roumde Adjia, the Super Eagles failed to raise their game to the expected level and fell to the team they were not expected to lose to.
The Eagles of the Carthage in North Africa were not expected to win, given the depletion they had claimed to have witnessed.
Moreover, they had squeezed through to the knockout stage as one of the best third-placed teams.
But the Super Eagles who had won their first three games sauntered through the first half.
Their wings were clipped as Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze could not find their way on the flanks.
Kelechi Iheanacho and Taiwo Awoniyi were not better in the central area of the Nigerian side’s attack, and they were easily dispossessed of the ball.
After a goalless first half, during when they mostly sat back, team captain Youssef Msakni gave the Tunisians the lead two minutes after the restart.
Maskni beat one defender and found space to shoot from outside the penalty area.
Goalkeeper Emil Okoye only had a touch on the ball but failed to stop it from resting in the net.
The complexion of the game changed when substitute Alexander Iwobi was sent off after the 66th minute, seven minutes after coming on for Iheanacho, following a tackle on Msakni.
The Super Eagles fought back, but the Tunisians defended as a unit, and withstood the waves of Nigerian attacks which were any way uncoordinated.
And this was in spite of the introduction of Peter Olayinka for Awoniyi (59th minute), Sadiq Umar for Chukwueze (74th minute) and Ahmed Musa for Joe Aribo (88th minute).
Rather, it was even the Tunisians who threatened to increase their lead, with Okoye on hand to punch away a well-struck Naim Sliti shot after 74 minutes.
But Simon did have a chance to level matters for Nigeria, when his free-kick from just outside the penalty area missed the target.
Also, Umar had his shot missing the target by inches late in the game, just as Wilfred Ndidi also missed target in the third minute of five added minutes.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Tunisia who won the AFCON title in 2004 will now face Burkina-Faso in the quarter-finals stage on Saturday in Garoua.