NIGERIA has been knocked out of the 2017 African Cup of Nations after losing 0-1 to Egypt last night in Alexandria meaning that the Super Eagles will miss two successive tournaments after losing out on the 2015 edition too.
In what now marks one of the lowest ebbs in Nigerian football, the Eagles were eliminated by a 65th minute goal from midfielder Ramadan Sobhy. Having conceded a late minute equaliser in the first leg in Kaduna last Friday, Nigeria needed an away win to secure qualification for the tournament taking place in Gabon next January.
However, despite putting up a spirited fight and creating lots of chances, the Eagles were unable to break down the Egyptian defence. Yesterday’s victory means that even if Nigeria wins her final game against Tanzania in June, the Eagles cannot make the continental tournament as only one team will qualify from the group.
Chad had effectively made yesterday’s game a knock-out match by withdrawing from the group, leading the Confederation of African Football to rule that only one team would go through. Nigeria now has to rally its players and begin preparing for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Coach Samson Siasia kept faith with the backline that drew 1-1 against Egypt in Kaduna using a quartet of Abdullahi Shehu, Stanley Amuzie, Efe Ambrose and Godfrey Oboabona while Chippa United goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, was in goal in place of injured first-choice, Carl Ikeme. In midfield he also retained Oghenekaro Etebo and Mikel Obi but Umar Aminu started in place of Kelechi Iheanacho.
Nigeria’s attack had only one change as Victor Moses started in place of Simon Moses, while Odion Ighalo and Ahmed Musa kept their places in the attack. However, the Egyptians created the better chances in the first half but Nigeria also had a few moments and although the Eagles grew into the game they could not get a meaningful shot past the Egyptian defence.
In the 41st minute of the game, goalkeeper Akpeyi pulled off two big saves from Ibrahim Salah and the captain Al-Said from set pieces. This ensured that the first half ended goalless and at half time Siasia brought on Elderson Echiejile for Amuzie to stabilise the defence but it did little to stop the rampaging Egyptian attack.
Azubuike Okechukwu was also brought on in the 62nd minute after an injury to Etebo. However, in the 64th minute, Sobhy broke Nigerian hearts after the Eagles defence failed to effectively deal with a set-piece and the 19-year-old’s shot was deflected past Akpeyi by the Nigerian defenders.
Nigeria’s Eagles fought gallantly to get an equaliser but the closest they got was in the 83rd minute when Moses’ shot cannoned off the upright. A former president of the Nigeria Football Federation, Kojo Williams, lamented Nigeria’s elimination describing it as utter embarrassment and shame.