By Victor Kanayo
The ongoing 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) has thrown, and is still dishing out some intriguing moments with upsets and moments of intense actions.
“Am I still watching AFCON, abi this is European football competition. The quality of African players have really come up in terms of standards you can watch anywhere in the World.
“I couldn’t believe it. However, this is just the beginning of the things to expect,” an African football enthusiast wrote via his X platform.
Perhaps, the above expression by an ardent football fan captures the mood and ecstasy in the competition, which started four days ago with an eye-catching opening ceremony rendezvous.
Shortly after, hostilities haven’t ceased with upsets rearing up day after day.
Group By Group Outcomes
In group A, hosts Cote d’ivoire came out 2-0 victorious in their first match against Guinea Bissau, but one of the tournament’s favourites Nigeria ended their opening clash with Equitorial Guinea 1-1.
As if that wasn’t enough, group B created an entirely heightened upset as one of football glowing sides Ghana succumbed to a 1-2 defeat before Cape Verde. Statistically speaking, Cape only made their fourth appearance in the AFCON, while Ghana have accumulated a 102-time showing and are serial continental winners. That was after another top soccer country Egypt in same group narrowly escaped defeat against minnows Mozambique, with a late Mo Salah’s penalty that drew parity between both sides at 2-2.
Apparently, the biggest of the shocks so far in the opening matches was the decimation of Tunisia by Namibia who had hitherto went nine matches without a win.
In recording their famous win against the 2004 champions, the Namibians in group E ruined the milestone achievement of Tunisian ace, Youssef Msakni who played his 100th international match.
The talents of veteran Msakni combined with that of Ben Slimane could not inspire Tunisia to capitalise on their domination against the Namibian upstarts.
In the same group, former champions, South Africa, also got a dose of the bitter tablets from Mali after going down 2-0.
Group C and D produced a fairly expected results. While defending Champions Senegal thrashed Gambia 3-0, Cameroon couldn’t overcome lowly side Guinea Conakry after their encounter ended 1-1.
Group E saw Burkina Faso narrowly beating unknwon Mauritania 1-0 at the tale end of their encounter. Algeria and Angola understandably ended 1-1.
Group F which rounded off matchday five actions on Wednesday night saw number one African team Morocco solidly overcome 10-man Tanzania 3-0. DR Congo and Zambia shared spoils 1-1.
Looming Second Group Matches
Ofcourse, group A clashes will start with Equitorial Guinea engaging Guinea-Bissau on Thursday. Thereafter, one of the day’s cracker will be when Nigeria confront Cote d’ivoire in front of their home fans at Alhassan Quattara Stadium in Abidjan.
Later on the day, another cracker between Ghana and Egypt will take place in group B.
Victor Osimhen storming the competition few weeks after emerging CAF player of the year has so much burden resting on him. In the first group match of his country, he couldn’t deliver as expected after missing a flurry of chances against Equitorial Guinea.
He however scored the only goal that ensured that Nigeria restored parity. With that, he became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in the 2023 AFCON to enter the book of fanciful record.
Nigeria’s goal against the Thunders came from the head of the Africa Player of the Year, who made his account 21 goals in 28 matches for homeland at senior level, and the Eagles will still set much store by him as they hunt for three crucial points against the two-time champions.
Osimhen was top scorer in qualifying with 10 goals, and is expected to be eager to add to his one goal at the AFCON, having only played a cameo role in 2019 and then missed outright the 2021 finals in Cameroon.
Nigeria’s Other First Scorers Since 1963
Asuquo Ekpe became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 1963 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against United Arab Republic.
Mohammed Baba Otu became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 1976 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Zaire.
Christian Chukwu became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in an Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Upper Volta in the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations. Segun Odegbami scored a brace as it ended 4-2 for Nigeira.
Mudashiru Lawal became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 1980 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Tanzania. Nigeria hosted and won.
Stephen Okechukwu Keshi became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 1982 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Ethiopia.
Henry Nwosu became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 1984 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Ghana.
Rashidi Yekini became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 1988 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Kenya.
Emmanuel Okocha became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 1990 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Senegal. Nigeria lost 1-5.
Samson Siasia became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 1992 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against host nation Algeria. Nigeria won 2-1.
Rashidi Yekini became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 1994 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Gabon. Yekini grabbed a brace while Mutiu Adepoju scored the third goal as Nigeria won 3-0. Nigeria also won the title for the second time after beating Zambia 2-1.
Jay Jay Okocha became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 2000 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Tunisia. Nigeria won 4-2. Victor Ikpeba and Okocha both scored a brace each.
Julius Aghahowa became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 2002 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Algeria.
In 2004 Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria lost thier opening match 1-0 to Morocco. Youssouf Hadji with the lone goal. The Super Eagles bounced back with an emphatic 4-0 win over South Africa. Joseph Yobo became Nigeria’s first goalscorer when he scored at the 4th minute.
Taiye Taiwo became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 2006 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Ghana.
Mikel Obi became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.
In 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in when he scored against Egypt. Nigeria lost 3-1.
Emmanuel Emenike became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 2013 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Burkina Faso. It ended 1-1. Nigeria cruised to the final with Sunday Mba’s 40th minute goal earned the Super Eagles her third AFCON title under Coach Stephen Keshi.
Odion Ighalo became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 2019 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Burundi.
Kelechi Iheanacho became Nigeria’s first goalscorer in 2021 Africa Cup of Nations when he scored against Egypt.
Cote d’ivoire And Nigeria, A Historical Perspective
It has been 40 years since Cote d’Ivoire last hosted African football’s flagship championship. That year, a youthful Nigerian team prevailed over Cup holders Ghana and drew with Malawi and Algeria to reach the semi-finals of an eight-nation competition, before coming from behind to draw 2-2 with Egypt’s Pharaohs and then emerge victorious on penalties in Bouake. They lost the Final 1-3 to Cameroon. Today, the AFCON is a 24-nation final tournament.
There was no Nigeria-Cote d’Ivoire clash in 1984, with the Elephants given the heave-ho in the group stages, but Cote d’Ivoire has been an ever-present in all AFCON competitions in which Nigeria has emerged champions. The two countries clashed in 1980 (also the second match of the group phase as will be Thursday’s encounter), in 1994 (semi-finals) and in 2013, when Cote d’Ivoire’s golden generation shockingly fell to the Super Eagles in an epic quarter-final in Rustenburg.
Other Second Group Fixtures
Friday, January 19
Cape Verde vs Mozambique
Senegal vs Cameroon
Guinea vs The Gambia
Saturday, January 20
Algeria vs Burkina Faso
Mauritania vs Angola
Tunisia vs Mali
Sunday, January 21
South Africa vs Namibia
Morocco vs DR Congo
Zambia vs Tanzania