A third minute strike from Odion Ighalo was enough as Nigeria defeated Tunisia 1-0 to emerge as third place Kings in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), reports Futbalgalore.com.
Maybe not a crown they’d want, but Nigeria are the ultimate third-place play-off team. Before today’s match they had played in six and won every won of them – beating Tunisia (1978), Cameroon (1992), Mali (2002 and 2004), Senegal (2006) and Algeria (2010). In fact they finished third another time too – in 1976 when then there was a four-team group to decide the winner.
Londoner Ola Aina, who joined Torino from Chelsea this summer, was straight on the attack for Nigeria but his cross couldn’t find Odion Ighalo.
The Super Eagles benefited from a blunder to go ahead in the third minute. Jamilu Collins left a defender on the floor and put in a cross. Moez Ben Cherifia punched the ball off his defender Yassine Meriah and Odion Ighalo tapped into an empty net.
Odion Ighalo looked good to win the Africa Cup of Nations golden boot. It was his fifth goal of the tournament. Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mane are among the players next on three.
Tunisia striker Taha Yassine Khenissi, who had been lively in this tournament although maybe lacking in quality a bit, had a chance but his shot was blocked and hit the side-netting.
Today’s game wasn’t expected to be dramatic as the 1978 third-place play-off between these teams. It was 1-1 when Tunisia’s players walked off the pitch in protest at a refereeing decision. Nigeria were given a 2-0 win.
Odion Ighalo was in again, this time he played it across the six-yard box and was hacked away.
On the 15 minutes mark, Tunisia attacked and Wahbi Khazri found Ferjani Sassi, who curled wide from about 25 yards out.
As at 25 minutes, the Carthage Eagles had five shots, but none went on target. Nigeria scored with one of their two shots. Possession was pretty level.
It was a game low in quality as both sides showed lack of motivation after falling in the semi finals. They showed lack of desire to entertain fans in Cairo.
Nigeria were dealt a cruel blow when Odion Ighalo pulled up holding his hamstring minutes before half time. It was obvious his night was over. He walked off the pitch and got a hug from coach Gernot Rohr.
Super Eagles were 45 minutes away from extending their remarkable record in third-place play-offs to seven wins from seven. They led 1-0 at half time.
Odion Ighalo’s tournament was over after he picked an injury. But he’ll win the golden boot unless Adam Ounas, Sadio Mane or Riyad Mahrez score two goals or more in Friday’s final. Victor Osimhen came off the bench for his first game of the tourney.
In the 58th minute, Tunisia had their first shot on target. Anice Badri hit a bouncer from about 30 yards which Nigeria keeper Francis Uzoho held.
Nigeria keeper Francis Uzoho got a decent punch onto Wahbi Khazri’s corner. It was goalkeeping from the shot stopper.
Minutes after the hour, it was almost a brilliant goal by Samuel Chukwueze. Nigeria worked the corner back to the Villarreal youngster who hit a wonderful curling shot from 25 yards, which Tunisia keeper Moez Ben Cherifia tipped round the post.
Wahbi Khazri shouted for a penalty as Ahmed Musa stuck up a high foot but there was minimal contact. And it wasn’t that high.
It was all over after 90 minutes. Nigeria are the true kings of this game. 1978, 1992, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2019 – they have won every third-place play-off final they have ever played in.