It is now stale news that Nigeria’s Super Eagles were absent at the recent Africa Cup of Nations finals hosted by Gabon.
It is also stale news that Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions won the trophy at the bi-annual continental football event. Little wonder that whoever hasn’t moved on must be stuck in the past.
But, it appears Nigeria still can’t move on. In fact, the West African giant has become obsessed with Cameroon ever since the Lions defeated Pharaohs of Egypt to claim the trophy at Libreville on February 5. Of course, the reason is not far-fetched.
Cameroon and Nigeria have two duels in August when the qualifiers for Russia 2018 World Cup get underway. So, there is a plausible reason to mind the Cameroonians, even if they don’t mind Nigerians.
In the World Cup African qualifying group that comprises the Lions and Eagles, there are also Fennecs of Algeria and Chipolopolo of Zambia. Cameroon and Nigeria are fierce rivals, although Nigeria has had to also battle with Algeria and Zambia at different levels before this term.
However, securing the lone ticket to Russia from the group, in the reckoning of many observers, is a straight fight between Nigeria and Cameroon. Notwithstanding, Nigeria has an edge at the moment having garnered the six maximum points after two rounds of matches in the group. Cameroon has two points while Algeria and Zambia have one point each.
Analysts have suggested that the group “is still wide open” and any one among the quartet can still claim the ticket. The fact that the results from the impending clashes between Nigeria and Cameroon could determine who eventually gets the ticket makes the obsession for Cameroon among Nigerian fans, the Eagles’ players, football administrators as well as former Nigeria international players tenable.
Yet, it seems a misplaced obsession; like putting the cart before the horse. Qualifiers for the AFCON 2019 finals to be hosted by Cameroon will commence in June this year when the Eagles will host Bafana Bafana of South Africa at home, two clear months before the crucial clashes with Cameroon in August. The AFCON group also comprises Libya and Seychelles.
No day passes by now without a mention of the Lions in the Nigerian media space as Eagles’ “formidable foes”, regardless of the fact that very few had given the Cameroonians any chance of making an impact at the Gabon Nations Cup, let alone going all the way to becoming champions.
The fear of Cameroon is now the beginning of wisdom, although there is still a mixture of feelings. “We can’t take Cameroon for granted if we wish to be in Russia,” veteran former Super Eagles’ coach Adegboye Onigbinde has warned the Nigeria Football Federation.
“Cameroon is now deadly,” former Eagles’ striker Victor Ikpeba has also warned Nigerians. “These Cameroonians can spring surprises,” another former Eagles’ star Mutiu Adepoju has cautioned.
“I think the dead Indomitable Lions have now roared back to life,” yet another former Eagles’ AFCON 1990 silver-winning player Toyin Ayinla has chipped in creatively.
There are a few others who have thought otherwise: “Cameroon can’t stop Nigeria’s march to Russia,” former Eagles’ defender and later coach Austin Eguavoen has boasted.
“We will beat Cameroon twice in August,” current Eagles’ midfielder Ogenyi Onazi has also boasted and enjoys immense publicity to the bargain. But Garba Lawal, who also played in the Eagles before retiring in 2010, has opted to talk tactically.
“We must play to our full strength if we hope to beat Cameroon because the Lions are no pushovers,” Lawal has said.
Incredibly, however, Nigeria appears still experimenting with players that would get battle ready for Cameroon in August.
Eagles’ Coach Gernot Rohr seeks to infuse new players apparently to make the team formidable, as suggested by the new assemblage to face Senegal and Burkina Faso in the friendly games billed for March 23 and 27.
It remains to be seen what team the Franco-German would line up against Bafana Bafana in the June AFCON qualifier and against the Cameroonians in August.