February 1, 2023

Nigeria need an outright win to qualify for the Qatar 2022 when they face Black Stars of Ghana in Abuja on Tuesday. A goalless draw will take the game into penalty shoot-out. A score draw will give the ticket to Ghana.

There is the possibility of another scoreless draw, Eguavoen and Amuneke therefore need to add penalty kicks to the training schedule of the Super Eagles.

The ghosts of the Afcon final match of  2000 must be banished.

Super Eagles have faced a penalty shoot-out situation in World Cup qualifying series only once. That was on 12 July 1980 when they beat Tunisia 2-0 in Lagos to bring aggregate scoreline to 2-2.

Nigeria triumphed 4-3 on penalties. Sports Village Square recalls that that was the first time the Nigerian national team had a penalty shoot-out situation.

The team has a lot to learn from lessons of history. They have to realise how an hitherto simple arithmetic can turn into a complex Greek puzzle.

The most recent example of such was the qualifier played against Cape Verde whom they had beaten at home. Even with a first minute goal in Lagos, it was a miracle how the team managed to survive the remaining 89 minutes of regulation time.

First within four minutes, they lost their solitary goal advantage as the visitors were threatening to even win the match. The situation easily opened the exit doors for Gernot Rohr.

Rewind to the Africa Cup qualifiers in 2020 when within 30 minutes, the Super Eagles were four goals up against visiting Sierra Leone. But under a spell of 20 minutes, the visitors cancelled the four goals and threatened to even add another one in what has become one of the biggest come-back stories in African football.

The often repeated phrase of ‘It is not over until it is over’, is applicable here.

Nigeria missed out in the maiden edition of the African Nations Championships (CHAN) which is for the products of the domestic league owing to complacency.

Nigeria scored two goals before half time and Ghana staged a remarkable come-back in the second half to win 3-2. Ordinarily, such a result may not be too bad for a team that will host the return leg as they needed just a goal to advance.

Alas, the return leg in Calabar ended goalless. Adios, home advantage! Such lessons call for cautious optimism as well a focus until the game is over.

Lessons should also be learnt from the last Africa Cup of Nations when the Round of 16 encounter with a heavily depleted and hitherto unimpressive Tunisia.

But the same Tunisia bounced back and fortuitously eliminated the hitherto unbeaten Super Eagles from Afcon 2021. There are lessons to be learnt.


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