Thursday, June 8, 2023

AFCON Qualifiers: Guinea-Bissau beat Super Eagles as Nigeria’s run extends to four-game losing streak

The Super Eagles were favourites, but were stunned 1-0 by a 118th ranked Guinea-Bissau team.

• March 24, 2023
Mama Balde
Mama Balde

Mama Balde scored the only goal as Guinea-Bissau grabbed an unlikely victory against Nigeria’s Super Eagles at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, in the first leg tie between the two nations for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on Friday evening.

Despite being on a three-game losing streak prior to today’s game, the Super Eagles, boosted by the presence of free-scoring Victor Osimhen, Ademola Lookman and in-form Samuel Chukwueze, were favourites but stunned 1-0 by the 118th ranked team in the world right at their own backyard.

Nigeria began the first half as the better team with the presence of Osimhen causing defensive problems for defenders of the Wild Dogs of Guinea-Bissau and almost found the back of the net in the 15th minute but his effort was saved by goalkeeper Jonas Mendes from point blank range.

Alfa Esteves almost put the visitors ahead in the 21st minute but his long range shot narrowly missed its intended target before Mama Balde slotted a lopped ball between Akpoguma Kevin and Calvin Bassey to surprisingly break the deadlock for Guinea-Bissau nine minutes later.

Then five minutes later, Balde failed to convert a one-on-one chance against Uzoho that would have doubled the Wild Dogs’ lead. The Super Eagles struggled to regain the dominance they enjoyed in the opening minutes of the half as the first 45 minutes ended with the visitors in the lead.

In need of a player to service Osimhen which was lacking in the first half, head coach Jose Peseiro decided to bring in Moses Simon for Lookman and Paul Onuachu for Kelechi Iheanacho to compete against the tall defenders of the visitors.

In the opening two minutes of the second half, Nigeria’s appeal for a penalty fell on referee Mahmoud Elbana deaf ears after Villareal winger Chukwueze felt his shot was handled by an opposition player inside the six-yard box.

Simon was provided with a through pass by Chukwueze in the 56th minute which the FC Nantes forward fired wide off net before the former almost got an equaliser five minutes later but was cleared off the line by Jefferson Encada’s last gasp attempt.

In search of a late goal, Super Eagles came close in the cusp of the match through Osimhen, whose shot was comfortably saved by the goalkeeper.

Another Chukwueze shot narrowly went over the bar and a free header that Paul Onuachu failed to put into the net as Guinea-Bissau clinched an unexpected away win.

The victory powered Guinea-Bissau to top of the Group A standings with the return leg coming up in Bissau on Monday. Nigeria dropped to second with six points from three matches.

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