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Super Eagles to confront Palancras Negras in AFCON 2023

Posted : 02 February 2024

The Super Eagles of Nigeria will be aiming for another chance to reach the medal zone of the African Cup of Nations for a record 16th time. However, they must first overcome a resolute Palancras Negras who are also eyeing the semi-finals for the first time in their history.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria, after their debut in the AFCON, have played a cumulative 16 matches in the quarterfinals of the competition and have been on the podium for a record 15 times, either coming first, second, or third.

In fact, Nigeria is one of the most decorated countries in the AFCON, having won it three times (1980, 1994, and 2013), secured silver four times (1984, 1988, 1990, and 2000), and won bronze medals a record eight times (1976, 1978, 1992, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, and 2019).

One thing that the Super Eagles have yet to do is lose the third-place match against any country.

The match against Angola, a country that has yet to have a single shot at the podium, will be a tricky one as the Palancras Negras will want to throw everything into the ring for it to happen.

It is interesting to note that the Super Eagles will be meeting the Palancras Negras for the first time in the knockout stages of the AFCON. Previously, Nigeria has only managed to score eight and conceded seven against a team that had twice become their albatross en route to the World Cup.

Nigeria does not, however, have a domineering win over Angola. Therefore, Angola is one team the Super Eagles should dread any day, any time.

The clashes between Nigeria and Angola at the international level have been few so far. All the other previous encounters were either friendly or qualifiers for the World Cup/Nations Cup, so Nigeria has a couple of scores to settle with the southern African nation.

It was the same Angola that edged Nigeria to reach the last round of the qualification series for the 1990 FIFA World Cup finals in Italy. However, the return leg in Nigeria, which the Eagles won 1-0, was under a cloud of tragedy as playmaker Samuel Okwaraji collapsed and died 13 minutes from the end on August 12, 1989. Several other football fans also lost their lives in a stampede that ensued after the game. The first leg in Luanda ended 2-2.

Angola once again famously stopped Nigeria from reaching the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals. The Eagles followed a 0-1 loss in Luanda to draw 1-1 with the Negras in a sunny Sani Abacha Stadium in June 2005.

Nigeria's path against Angola once again crossed each other while they were both in one basket, Group D, for the Germany 2006 World Cup qualifiers. The Angola tragedies against Nigeria knocked at the door once more.

It happened as the captain of the team then, Austin JayJay Okocha, who was in super form, refused to report for the all-important qualifier against Angola on June 20, 2004, in Luanda. Second, even Obafemi Martin, who got the two goals against Rwanda in Abuja, equally did not show up in Angola.

Third, something must have dramatically gone wrong between Eagles handlers and/or NFF authorities that made Okocha, who scored the first goal in Nigeria’s 1 – 2 victory against Mali away on February 13, 2004, not show up for the Super Eagles from this date till Nigeria lost to Angola on June 20, 2005!!! Did you notice a playback of Okwaraji on Okocha in this regard? Talking about Angola troubles for Nigeria.

It was Fabrice Akwa’s 84th-minute goal that put Nigeria in a tight corner in that home tie. On June 18, 2005, Nigeria’s most reliable striker of that time, Obafemi Martin, failed to report for the game against Angola in Kano – another round of trouble for Nigeria from Angola.

The worst disaster waiting to happen was when the game was taken to Kano. Angola usually puts Nigeria on a confusing track each time both sides are to lock horns in football. Nigeria scored, but Angola equalized, and at the end of the day, both teams finished on 17 points, but Angola qualified based on head-to-head.

So, as the grudge match between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and Palancras Negras of Angola takes place at 5 pm Cote d’Ivoire time (6 pm Nigeria time), it will be another of the rare occasions that Nigeria and Angola tango on the turf.

The Coach of Nigeria, Jose Peseiro, should take note and not risk using Francis Uzoho, who is a suspect between the sticks now that goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali has been certified fit to start the encounter. Though Coach Jose Peseiro has indicated he may not want to risk the safe hands if he is not fit enough for the tie.

A number of the Angolan playing personnel, including captain Fredy Kulembe, have been talking about stepping on the Eagles to achieve their aim of a place in the semi-finals of Africa’s most prestigious football competition. But Nigeria's defender, Kenneth Omeruo, insists that talk is cheap.

“We drew our first match (against Equatorial Guinea), and many people concluded that we are not here to compete strongly for the trophy. They have since admitted that we may be up to something after we defeated Cote d’Ivoire and then Cameroon. We must continue to work hard, believe in ourselves, and put in a solid shift each day and time we get onto the field.”

The Super Eagles, who took seven out of the maximum nine points from their group phase matches, stepped onto the relatively familiar turf of the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny with assurance. They thought they had taken the lead when Semi Ajayi swept the ball home from a goalmouth melee. Moroccan referee Redouane Jiyed gave the goal but was summoned by the Video Assistant Referee to watch the action again and afterward ruled out the strike.

Nigeria’s twin-terror of Victor Osimhen and Ademola Lookman did not relent. In the 35th minute, Africa Player of the Year Osimhen picked the pocket of a dithering defender, Oumar Gonzalez, and threaded to Lookman, who shot past Fabrice Ondoa from close range.

Nigeria boss Jose Peseiro expects a tough test: "Angola is unpredictable with some very dangerous players. We cannot underestimate them."



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