The Super Eagles of Nigeria came to the end of their participation at AFCON 2021 at the hands of Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles at the Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the North Africans.
Brimming with confidence after a brilliant group stage campaign, the Super Eagles came into the game against a severely depleted Tunisian side, who were without a good number of players and their coach due to COVID.
From the first blast of the whistle, the match settled into a pattern that would remain until the end of the match in Garoua. Recognising the danger posed by Nigeria’s wide men Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze, the Tunisians repeated the trick used by the Super Eagles against Mohamed Salah and Egypt in the opening game. They doubled up on the wingers to prevent them from creating anything from the wide positions.
The Super Eagles struggled to break down the disciplined Tunisian side and came closest early in the first half as Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo saw his shot from a tight angle deflected wide of the upright.
The first half ended with the Nigeria side failing to record a single attempt on target against the Tunisians, who looked more assured in possession over the first 45 minutes.
Tunisia started the second half brilliantly and soon found themselves in front through veteran Youssef Msakni. The winger made use of his strength to hold off Ola Aina before setting himself up for a well-taken shot from outside the box, which Super Eagles goalkeeper could only palm into the corner of his net in the 47th minute.
The Super Eagles looked to immediately respond and coach Austin Eguavoen threw on Everton forward Alex Iwobi and Peter Olayinka for Kelechi Iheanacho and Taiwo Awoniyi in a bid to draw level. Olayinka set-up the in-form Moses Simon, who failed to find the net after his shot from close range was charged down by the Tunisian goalkeeper.
Everton midfielder Iwobi lasted only five minutes on the pitch before he was sent for an early shower for a dangerous foul on the goalscorer Msakni in the 64th minute.
After going down to ten men, the Super Eagles huffed and puffed but could not break down the Tunisian backline. Substitute striker Sadiq Umar came closest as he latched onto a through ball from Ola Aina but couldn’t catch it sweetly enough to steer it inside the far post.
Tunisia held on for a brilliant 1-0 win over the Super Eagles as they gained a measure of revenge after Nigeria defeated them in the third-place match in 2019. They will now face Burkina Faso in the quarterfinals after the Stallions edged the Panthers of Gabon on penalties in Limbe.