By Kunle Adedoyin
Nigeria has won the Bronze of the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON), its eighth bronze in the competition.
The Super Eagles defeated the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia in the third-place match on Wednesday night at the Al-Salam stadium in Cairo, courtesy Odion Ighalo’s third-minute goal following a goalkeeping blunder from Tunisia’s Moez Ben Cherifia.
The goal was Ighalo’s goal number five in the competition, the highest so far, by any player in the tournament, placing him in a vantage position to win the golden boot.
The Shenhua Shanghai striker scored 79% of Nigeria’s goals at the 2019 AFCON.
In the match, the Tunisians had fifty-four percent ball possession while the Nigerians had forty-six.
Both the Super Eagles and the Carthage Eagles went into the aginst their respective painful narrow semi-final defeats. Tunisia went down 0-1 to Senegal in extra time while Nigeria was knocked out by a late Riyad Mahrez free-kick in a 1-2 defeat to Algeria.
Gernot Rohr’s men came out of the blocks flying in this match and were duly rewarded after a mix-up at the back from Alain Giresse’s team. Jamilu Collins put in a cross from the left which goalkeeper Ben Cherifia failed to get hold of. It came off defender Yassine Meriah and Ighalo was left to tap into the net.
Cherifia’s blunder was just one in a string of calamitous errors made by Tunisia goalkeepers during this tournament. This was a nightmare start for the man who replaced Mouez Hassen in goal
The second half saw some flurry of chances which were missed by the Super Eagles.
Ighalo was pulled off the match following a likely hamstring injury and was replaced by Victor Osimhen
In the 65th minute, Samuel Chukwueze has a dip from the edge of the box which was denied by the flying Ben Cherifia.
Francis Uzoho, in goal for Nigeria, who had been less busy, was called to duty in the 69th minute as he had to stretched to gather a cross with both hands above his head.
Captain Ahmed Musa was substituted by Moses Simon in the 74th minute.
A Tunisian’s effort was wasted in the 79th minute as 79′ as a horrible shot from Mohamed Drager went sailing over the crossbar.
Another effort in the 84th minute was also wasted as weak shot sailed over the Nigerian goal post.
Nigeria got a chance to double its lead in the 90th minute when Bedoui handled the ball just after the box area. He was cautioned by the referee.
The free kick taken by Substitute Samuel Kalu went low and was comfortably palmed away by Cherifia.
William Troost-Ekong, who scored an own goal in the match against Algeria redeemed himself in the third-place match by pulling a show that won him the Total Man-of-the-Match award.
The Eagles have now played the third-place AFCON matches eight times, twice more than any other African nation. Egypt and Cote D’Ivoire are next with 6 times; Ghana (5), Tunisia (4), Algeria (4).
Nigeria first won the third-place match in 1976 when the then Green Eagles beat Egypt 3-2 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Eagles have also won it in 1978, 1992, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010 — and now 2019.