African champions, the Super Eagles of Nigeria are in danger of not being able to defend the trophy they won 2013 in South Africa as they succumb 2-3 to Congo Brazzaville yesterday at the U.J Esuene Stadium in Calabar in their opening game of the 2015 Nations Cup group qualifier.
What could have gone wrong with a team that showed a lot of promise under coach Stephen Keshi? Could it be a fall-out of the crisis at the Nigeria Federation or plain over confidence by the Super Eagles? Now the Eagles will have to answer their names when they play against South Africa on Wednesday in Cape Town. It is a must win game for the Eagles; otherwise they will join the Pharaohs of Egypt in list of champions who failed to qualify for a successive Nations Cup.
Efe Ambrose opened the goal vault in the 13th minute and that goal off a header must have given the Eagles a false hope that the Congolese were in for a thumping. But it was a wrong assumption, the Eagles paid dearly for their sloppy play against an aggressive Congolese team. The visitors handed Nigeria a defeat for the first time in 40 years. It was also the first the Eagles will be losing a match in Calabar.
Prince Oniangue set the tone for the Congolese victory in the 18th minute when he drew level after the Eagles defense failed to cope with a fast counter attack. That strike rattled the Eagles;They apperently became jittery and could not make good their chances. Ahmed Musa had the opportunity to make it two for Nigeria, but he was lethargic in his finishing after he was put through by Godfrey Oboabona.
Congo took one of their chances just before the break as Thierry Bifouna played on Litingu Francy, who fired home clinically past Austin Ejide in goal.
Coach Keshi brought on Emmanuel Emenike, but it was Congo who did more scoring in the 54th minute when Bifouma fired a shot from the penalty spot, after he was brought down in the area.
Ogenyi Onazi and Nosa Igiebor came close to tidying up the game for the Eagles, but it wasn’t going to be their day. However, in the dying minutes Gbolahan Salami rescued some pride for the Eagles when he fired home inside the six yard box.
“We were very slow on the ball and they were very aggressive,” Ejide said after the game.
“You could see it in their eyes that they came here for a fight. They were well prepared and we were a little bit over confident.
“But all is not lost. On Wednesday we must go to South Africa and rescue the three points.”
South Africa tops the group. Congo is second spot, they will play against Sudan on Wednesday. Vanguard