Nigeria walk tight rope, as Pharaohs prove too tough for Eagles
Nigeria 1 Egypt 1
Unless a miracle happens in Cairo on Tuesday, Nigeria will miss another African Nations Cup championship after failing to qualify for the 2015 edition of the competition hosted by Equatorial Guinea. The Super Eagles were expected to beat Egypt yesterday in Kaduna to resuscitate their chances of qualifying for Gabon 2017, but the Nigerians could only hold the Pharaohs to a 1-1 draw.
Yesterday’s result means that Egypt are still on top of Group G on seven points, two more than Nigeria, who are on five points. The Pharaohs are on a plus seven goals difference, while Nigeria’s goals difference is plus two.
To have any chance of making next year’s African Nations Cup in Gabon, Nigeria must beat Egypt in Alexandria on Tuesday and win the remaining two games against Cha and Tanzania.
If the Eagles lost to Egypt on Tuesday and Tanzania beat Chad same day, Nigeria will fall to the third position, while Egypt would have sealed their passage to Gabon 2017, as only the group winner qualifies automatically for the competition.
Nigeria started yesterday’s game against the Pharaohs like a team with a mission to grab the three points. But the more tactically aware Egyptians kept them at bay through a well-oiled midfield play that saw them double-teaming any Nigerian with the ball. There was always the feeling that the Egyptians could breach Nigeria’s defence if they attacked the Eagles, with the pairing of Efe Ambrose and Godfrey Oboabona in the heart of the backline always suspect whenever the Pharaohs got close to Carl Ikeme’s goal area.
Nigeria bossed the early minutes of the game, but Ahmed Musa and Odion Ighalo could not make the dominance count. Egypt goalkeeper, Ahmed El-Shennawy, was called to duty in the 15th minute when he saved Musa’s dangerous cross from the right wing. But the Pharaohs almost took the lead three minutes later, but Koka’s shot was saved by Ikeme. The first half ended goalless.
The pace of the game picked up in the second half with Nigeria searching for the opener, which finally came in the 60th minute through Oghenekaro Etebo, who bundled the rebound of a delightful Iheanacho shot into the net.
Victor Moses, who replaced Musa in the second half, should have made it two in the 84th minute after rounding El-Shennawy, but his shot was cleared off the line by Hamada Tolba.
With the regulation time ended, the referee signaled for three minutes of stoppage time. And that was all the time Egypt needed to get the goal that put the Eagles on a tight rope.
Ambrose and Oboabona were caught ball watching when Ramadan Sobhy slotted a delightful through-ball into Mohamed Salah, who made no mistake from 12 yards.
It would have been worse for Nigeria in the third minute of stoppage time, but the referee saved the Eagles’ blushes when he signaled the end of the game with Salah running with the ball unchallenged towards Ikeme’s goal.
The Guardian recalls that Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2012 edition of the Nations Cup when they allowed Guinea to cancel their lead with three minutes to the end of their final qualify in Abuja. Again, Egypt got their equalizer with three minutes to go in Kaduna yesterday. In both games, Samson Siasia was the coach of the Super Eagles.