It had been a tough ride and a draining emotional rollercoaster.

 The Super Eagles of Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations campaign ground to a halt at the semifinals when supreme quality prevailed. Nigeria should have been the better-prepared side having played their quarterfinal match 24 hours earlier than Algeria who went through extra time and penalties at theirs.

The game began with Nigeria looking out-thought. Djamel Belmadi’s Algeria started the game at a high tempo, running Nigeria’s otherwise solid midfield ragged but Nigeria were expected to sit back and absorb the pressure early on. Their pressing game denied the Super Eagles space on the counter, with 51% ball possesion and more passes, Nigeria could do little else with the possession they were being allowed.

Nigeria struggled to get a foothold on the game. Image Credit: Javier Soriano/AFP

 In a game of fine margins; Jamilu Collins’ millisecond of hesitation, presumably to drop a shoulder for Riyad Mahrez’s anticiapted cut-in to his left foot was exploited, as the former African Player of the year gained a yard of pace to deliver the cross for the opening goal. 

Betway Nigeria

Algeria have been impressive and well-organized in their run to a first AFCON final since winning it in 1990 while Nigeria quite simply go through the motions in every game, finding a moment of brilliance in their scrappiness. Nigeria’s most promising passage of possession saw patient build-up play ended by a wayward Oghenekaro Etebo long-range shot, the scrappy kings would be rewarded fortuitously by Aissa Mandi’s handball, penalty, equalizer. Game on.

Man of the match Riyad Mahrez took Algeria to the final with the last kick of the game, sending Algeria fans into a frenzy. Image Credit: Gavin Barker/ EPA

Extra time would have suited Nigeria as the Fennecs began to tire. It is however, the moment when Nigeria should have seized the initiative, introducing fresh ideas off the bench could have ended the game for Nigeria as it did for Algeria. On a high.

 Nevertheless, the Super Eagles can’t be faulted for fight or desire. It took a stabbed final kick of the game to send them back to the drawing board. This group of young players are undeniably talented and can be something truly special with the addition of two to three quality players. If Gernot Rohr were to leave his post then he has to be replaced by a coaching crew brimming with ideas, more importantly, one that has experience of winning with Nigeria. One which can inject and inspire a winning blueprint.

Happily we have a deserving high-quality Africa cup of Nations final, the type that African football deserves. North vs West, Mahrez vs Mané in what is a sure shootout for Africa’s Player of the year award.


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Blog Meets Brand