Nigerians are very confident of caging Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions as both teams clash today in perhaps the biggest match of Africa’s Group B of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying race.
African champions Cameroon are in Uyo – in the South-south region of Nigeria – at a time the managers of the Super Eagles say the players are fully committed to establishing an unassailable lead in the pool, and on the back of Nigeria having won the last three encounters between both nations at senior level.
Cameroon won the African title in Gabon early in the year – a championship for which Nigeria failed to qualify – and then tucked three big games under their belt at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia in the summer. Yet, they have a mountain to climb against a Nigerian side ready to rise to the occasion in front of a partisan home crowd at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium.
The Lions will derive little comfort from glancing at the Group B table, on which they lag behind Nigeria with as many as four points, and also realize they have never beaten Nigeria in a World Cup qualifying match played in Nigeria.
Team captain Mikel Obi is at the head of the players who are in town for the big encounter. Eagles manager Gernot Rohr, told a world media talk on Wednesday that his players were fully focused on what pundits have referred to as Nigeria’s biggest match of the year.
He said, “It is a big match and we are fully focused and committed. The players know what it means; they need little or no reminding of how important this match is. I am happy we have almost the full house now and can concentrate on our tactics for the game.”
Nigeria, on six maximum points from their first two matches, will all but seal a place in Russia if they snap up the three points on offer today, Friday. Zambia and Algeria, the other two teams in the group, have one point each and clash at the Heroes National Stadium in Lusaka on Saturday.
On head-to-head measurement, Eagles will aim to achieve a 12th triumph over the Lions. In 19 previous encounters, Nigeria have been winners 11 times, with Cameroon winning four times and four matches drawn.
Of these games, three happened to be the Final matches of the Africa Cup of Nations (all won by Cameroon, including a nail-biting penalty shoot-out session in Lagos in February 2000), and there were two different fixtures of FIFA World Cup qualifiers (1968 and 1989) shared equally.
Nigeria eliminated Cameroon from the qualifying race for 1970 World Cup finals, winning 3-2 in Douala after a 1-1 draw in Lagos. But the Lions took their revenge in 1989; snatching the minimum win they needed in Yaounde (1-0) to kick the Eagles out of the race for Italia ’90, only two weeks after Sam Okwaraji’s death.
While Cameroonians treasure the wins in Abidjan (1984), Casablanca (1988) and Lagos (2000) that gave them three of their five African titles, Nigerians have sweet memories of a 2-0 defeat of the Lions in Ibadan (in 1989) and a gutsy 2-1 win over Cup holders Cameroon in the quarter finals of 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in the sunshine of Monastir.
When the two teams last clashed, at the Edmond Machtens Stadium in Brussels in October 2015, the Eagles ran away 3-0 winners. Efe Ambrose rose highest in the Lions’ box to nod home a Mikel Obi free-kick, before Moses Simon rounded the goalkeeper for the second goal and Odion Ighalo headed the third after a splendid pull-out by Elderson Echiejile.
Mikel, Simon, Ighalo and Echiejile are in the Nigerian squad that seek a repeat scoreline today.
NIGERIA vs CAMEROON
●8 Dec 1962: Nigeria 3 Cameroon 1 – Lagos (Nkrumah Cup)
●1 Jan 1963: Cameroon 1 Nigeria 2 – Yaoundé (Nkrumah Cup)
●7 Dec 1968: Nigeria 1 Cameroon 1 – Lagos (World Cup Qualifier)
●22 Dec 1968: Cameroon 2 Nigeria 3 – Douala (World Cup Qualifier)
●13 Feb 1972: Cameroon 1 Nigeria 2 – Yaoundé (Friendly)
●22 Jan 1975: Nigeria 1 Cameroon 0 – Lagos (Friendly)
●17 July 1978: Cameroon 0 Nigeria 0 – Algiers (All-Africa Games)
●2 Feb 1980: Nigeria 0 Cameroon 0 – Ibadan – (Friendly)
●18 Mar 1984: Cameroon 3 Nigeria 1 – Abidjan (ACN Final)
●17 Mar 1988: Cameroon 1 Nigeria 1 – Rabat (ACN – group phase)
●27 Mar 1988: Cameroon 1 Nigeria 0 – Casablanca (ACN Final)
●10 Jun 1989: Nigeria 2 Cameroon 0 – Ibadan (World Cup Qualifier)
●27 Aug 1989: Cameroon 1 Nigeria 0 – Yaoundé (World Cup Qualifier)
●25 Jan 1992: Cameroon 1 Nigeria 2 – Dakar (ACN – Bronze medal game)
●7 Aug 1997: Cameroon 0 Nigeria 1 – Tunis (LG Cup)
●13 Feb 2000: Nigeria 2 Cameroon 2 (3-4 penalties) – Lagos (ACN Final)
●1 Jun 2003: Nigeria 3 Cameroon 0 – Lagos (LG Cup)
●8 Feb 2004: Cameroon 1 Nigeria 2 – Monastir (ACN – group phase)
●11 Oct 2015: Nigeria 3 Cameroon 0 – Brussels (Friendly)