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Anger, Disappointment In Nigeria After Early AFCON Exit

Nigerians have been left "disappointed" after the national team's surprise last-16 exit to Tunisia at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.


Tunisia’s players celebrate after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 23, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

(Top L-R) Nigeria’s goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, defender Kenneth Omeruo, forward Taiwo Awoniyi, midfielder Joe Aribo, defender William Troost-Ekong, (bottom L-R) forward Kelechi Iheanacho, defender Ola Aina, defender Zaidu Sanusi, forward Moses Simon and forward Samuel Chukwueze pose prior to the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 23, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

Nigerians have been left “disappointed” after the national team’s surprise last-16 exit to Tunisia at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

The Tunisians edged out the three-time champions 1-0 in Garoua on Sunday despite suffering a raft of positive Covid-19 cases.

The blame game began back in Nigeria immediately after the final whistle, with goalkeeper Maduka Okoye and caretaker coach Augustine Eguavoen both criticised.

“You need a top goalkeeper to win a tournament and Nigeria didn’t have one,” said journalist Abiola Shodiya.

“I always knew Maduka (Okoye) was a ticking time bomb. It was just a matter of time before he exploded. It didn’t take too long.”

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Eguavoen took over as interim boss just two weeks before the tournament after Gernot Rohr was sacked.

He was widely praised after he guided the team through the group stage with a perfect record.

But the goodwill for the 56-year-old coach did not last long.

“I still cannot believe that we are no longer at the Nations Cup,” lamented Etim Inyang, a shocked fan.

“The coach (Eguavoen) was not prepared for the Tunisians, who were better tactically. He could not vary his tactics and he panicked in his changes.

“We will need another man to lead the team for the World Cup playoffs against Ghana.”

The focus for Nigeria has now shifted to the 2022 World Cup play-off against arch-rivals Ghana in March.

The matches are slated for between March 23 and 29, with Ghana — who failed to progress to the knockout stages of the Cup of Nations — hosting the first leg.

Nigeria hope to play in a fourth straight World Cup finals later this year in Qatar.

AFP