Cameroon, YAOUNDE – Nigerians have been left “disappointed” after the national team’s surprise last-16 exit to Tunisia at the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
The Tunisians edged out the three-time champions 1-0 in Garoua on Sunday despite suffering a raft of positive Covid-19 cases.
The blame game began back in Nigeria immediately after the final whistle, with goalkeeper Maduka Okoye and caretaker coach Augustine Eguavoen both criticised.
“You need a top goalkeeper to win a tournament and Nigeria didn’t have one,” said journalist Abiola Shodiya according to AFP.
“I always knew Maduka (Okoye) was a ticking time bomb. It was just a matter of time before he exploded. It didn’t take too long.”
Eguavoen took over as interim boss just two weeks before the tournament after Gernot Rohr was sacked.
He was widely praised after he guided the team through the group stage with a perfect record.
But the good will for the 56-year-old coach did not last long.
“I still cannot believe that we are no longer at the Nations Cup,” lamented Etim Inyang, a shocked fan.
“The coach (Eguavoen) was not prepared for the Tunisians, who were better tactically. He could not vary his tactics and he panicked in his changes.
“We will need another man to lead the team for the World Cup playoffs against Ghana.”
Newspaper Punch Sports Extra ran with the headline: “Hope Dashed – Eagles crash out after 1-0 defeat to Covid-19-hit Tunisia,” while Sporting Sun simply reported it as “Super Eagles in disappointing end”.
The focus for Nigeria has now shifted to the 2022 World Cup play-off against arch-rivals Ghana in March.
The matches are slated for between March 23 and 29, with Ghana – who failed to progress to the knoockout stages of the Cup of Nations – hosting the first leg.
Nigeria hopes to play in a fourth straight World Cup finals later this year in Qatar.