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REMEMBRANCE: WHEN SUPER EAGLES ESCAPED TO TUNISIA 2004

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA

On this date, 21 June 2003, the Super Eagles nearly missed out in their final qualifying match to the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia. They struggled to hold the visiting Angola to a 2-2 draw.

Buoyed by the preceding results, Nigeria fielded a nearly second string side to play the last match against Angola in Benin. Things soon went awry as Paulo Paulo Figueiredo curled in a Free kick from the left side of Nigeria’s penalty box in the ninth minute to shoot the visitors ahead.

Coincidentally, it was in similar fashion that the same player scored the backbreaking equalizer that denied Nigeria the World Cup qualification two years later in Kano.

In the Benin match, Angolan captain, Fabrice Alcebiades Maieco, commonly known as Akwá, rose above static Nigerian defence to nod home a corner kick in the 55th minute to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.

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Like the scorer of the first goal, Figueiredo, Akwá, also returned to hunt Nigeria in the 2006 World Cup qualifier two years later as his 84th minute goal contributed to Nigeria’s failure to qualify for Germany 2006.

Shortly after his goal in Benin, as fans boo the Super Eagles and cheer the visiting Angolans, Uche Kalu pulled a goal back from a header off a cross.

In the 62nd minute, Osaze Odemwingie leveled up for Nigeria from the penalty spot.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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