The Super Eagles were left to rue their profligacy in front of goal during a frustrating start to the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday. Nigeria were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw to kick off their Group A campaign in Abidjan, failing to match the exploits of Ivory Coast – who beat Guinea-Bissau 2-0 to open the tournament on Saturday night – ahead of their crunch clash with the hosts on Thursday evening.
Despite a dominant start at the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpe, injury-hit Nigeria fell behind in shock fashion against the run of play when Iban Salvador Edu fired neatly into the bottom corner from the edge of the box. Giant-killers Equatorial Guinea weren’t in front for long, however, with Nigeria’s attacking talisman Victor Osimhen steering in a header from point-blank range following a deflected Ademola Lookman cross.
Moses Simon hit the woodwork for Nigeria before the interval and the Super Eagles piled on more pressure in the second period, but could not find that elusive winning goal.
MATCH FULL REPORT:
Wasteful Nigeria were held to a 1-1 draw by Equatorial Guinea as their latest Africa Cup of Nations campaign got off to a frustrating start in Abidjan on Sunday.
The injury-hit Super Eagles needed a close-range header from star striker Victor Osimhen before half-time to secure a share of the spoils in the second game in Group A, the Napoli marksman answering back within two minutes of a shock Equatorial Guinea opener netted coolly into the bottom corner by Polish-based forward Iban Salvador Edu.
However, Osimhen also spurned a few other opportunities on the day including a golden chance after the interval as Nigeria piled on the pressure but failed to find another way past impressive Alaves goalkeeper Jesus Owono.
Osimhen was sent through with just under 15 minutes to play at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium – AKA the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpe – but dragged a right-footed shot comfortably wide of the near post in horrible fashion. It was a chance that the recently-crowned African Football of the Year would usually take with minimal fuss.
Instead it rather compounded another disappointing AFCON afternoon for Nigeria, who won the last of their three continental titles a decade ago and were dumped out of the tournament in the round of 16 in Cameroon in 2021.
They will have to improve sharply for Thursday night’s high-profile showdown with Ivory Coast, with the hosts having opened proceedings with a comfortable win over Guinea-Bissau on Saturday.
For Equatorial Guinea, their reputation as a force to be reckoned with at AFCON remains. Though appearing at the competition for just the fourth time in their history this month, they finished fourth in 2015 and reached the quarter-finals on both other occasions, stunning defending champions Algeria last time around.
A hard-fought opening draw against one of the tournament favourites and traditional African football powerhouses is a fine result before they take on minnows Guinea-Bissau later this week.
Nigeria head coach Jose Peseiro could come under fire for his team selection, choosing to bench the likes of AC Milan attacker Samuel Chukwueze and Fulham defender Calvin Bassey after a flat warm-up defeat by Guinea in Abu Dhabi on Monday and back-to-back World Cup qualifying draws against Zimbabwe and Lesotho.