Ademola Lookman was the star of the show, scoring twice as the Super Eagles defeated fierce rivals Cameroon in a 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) round of 16 match late Saturday.
The Atalanta forward scored once in each half to propel the Super Eagles to the competition’s quarterfinals with a 2-0 victory.
In this last-16 match, the Nigerians had an early Semi Ajayi goal disallowed due to a VAR review, but Victor Osimhen’s continuous pressing and bullying of the Cameroon defence resulted in Lookman scoring in the 36th minute.
A team that has become impermeable at this AFCON then held off the Indomitable Lions before Lookman sealed the victory in the 90th minute in front of 22,085 supporters at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan.
They will now return to the same site next Friday for a last-eight clash with Angola, who overcame Namibia 3-0 earlier.
With the ferocious Osimhen at the helm, the Super Eagles are undoubtedly a genuine threat to reigning champions Senegal as they seek a fourth continental title.
This is a Cup of Nations classic, with Cameroon winning three of its five titles after defeating Nigeria in the final.
The first came in 1984, when a team captained by Roger Milla recovered from behind to win 3-1 at this stadium in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital.
However, Nigeria won their most recent meeting with their neighbours in the last 16 in Egypt five years ago, and their current team entered this match as favourites against Rigobert Song’s Cameroon.
The Super Eagles breezed through their group unscathed, while Cameroon needed a stoppage-time goal against Gambia to advance.
Their most well-known player is Andre Onana, but the Manchester United goalkeeper was benched for the second game in a row, with Fabrice Ondoa of French third-tier side Nimes taking his place in goal.
Vincent Aboubakar, their skipper and top goal threat, was picked as a substitute after missing the entire first round due to injury.
Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro rested captain William Troost-Ekong, Lookman, and Alex Iwobi, who scored the game-winning goal in 2019, for their most recent match against Guinea-Bissau.
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Their pressing tactics posed issues for Cameroon from the start, and Nigeria felt they had taken the lead after eight minutes.
Ondoa saved a Moses Simon shot, but the ball broke to Ajayi, and the West Brom defender scored despite the goalkeeper’s touch.
Wild celebrations erupted, only for the Moroccan referee to approach the VAR monitor and reject the goal because Ajayi was considered offside and interfered when the initial shot came in.
Not to be deterred, Nigeria simply kept running, with the relentless Osimhen leading the way.
He set up the opening goal by dispossessing Oumar Gonzalez after a throw-in was sent back towards the Cameroonian defender and then setting up Lookman.
The Atalanta forward’s shot was direct at Ondoa, but the goalie could only aid it along.
Osimhen dropped to the ground at halftime, but the African footballer of the year recovered enough energy to continue after the resumption.
Peseiro has highlighted that his team’s focus has been to avoid conceding goals, and they remained steady despite goalkeeper Stanley Nwabili being stretchered out injured late in the game.
Aboubakar’s arrival for Cameroon made no difference, and Nigeria scored the winning goal just before the game entered 10 minutes of injury time.
Calvin Bassey crossed low from the left, and London-born Lookman sealed the deal.