This evening in Uyo, it will be a top-of-the-table clash when the Super Eagles of Nigeria take on reigning African Champions, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, in a World Cup qualifier, at the ‘nest of champions.’ The game will be the first leg of a double header against the Cameroonians in just four days, as the return leg comes up in Yaoundé, next Monday.
The importance of the task ahead for the Nigerian team cannot be over emphasized as they know that four points out of a possible six will see them with one foot in Russia for next year’s World Cup. Nigeria currently tops the group with six points, followed by Cameroon with two points, and Algeria and Zambia with one point each.
Winning this game will provide a clear 7-point lead serving as a huge morale booster for the Super Eagles’ reverse leg. Anything short of this will be a huge setback as it will quickly take away the team’s current position of power as well as the team’s qualification fate.
We have a full house already in Uyo and the ‘big boys’ are also very ready and amped for this fixture. The likes of Mikel Obi, Odion Ighalo and Victor Moses, who were not part of the defeat to South Africa in the AFCON qualifiers, are here for this one, while Hapoel Be’er Sheva hit-man, Tony Nwakaeme is also in the team after getting his first call-up. From all indications, the Super Eagles are ready for the Indomitable Lions but let’s take a look at our common history.
We all know the Cameroonians and their robust style of football. We’ve come up against them 20 times and in those 20 games, we have won 10, lost four and drawn six. We might have a winning record against them, but in competitive games, their victories against us have been more impactful. They beat the Eagles in two AFCON finals and drew a third one before going on to win on penalties.
The lions stopped Nigeria from qualifying for the Italia 90 World Cup in a 1-0 final qualifier in Yaoundé. However, that has been the only victory over the Super Eagles in four World Cup qualifiers, Nigeria has two victories and the other game ended in a draw. This new crop of Indomitable Lions were not considered as heavyweights on the continent a year ago, but since their triumph at this year’s AFCON in Gabon, they cannot be ignored. They have some very talented and key players that can damage and dampen the Nigerian mood if they are allowed to flourish.