• Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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Football Rivalries: Why Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria remain the most intense in Africa

Okocha-Cameroon

As African football continues to evolve, the rivalry among Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon shows no signs of diminishing. With new generations of players emerging and the stakes getting higher than ever, these matches remain among the most anticipated and captivating in the African football calendar.

Nigeria and Cameroon renewed their hostilities in Round 16 of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Atalanta winger Ademola Lookman scored a brace to hand Nigeria’s Super Eagles a 2-0 win over Cameroon in the second match of the round of 16 games of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium.

Three-time champions Super Eagles of Nigeria finished second behind Equatorial Guinea in Group A. Rigobert Song’s Indomitable Cameroon side, five-time champions, rallied a late comeback against The Gambia to progress to the knockout stage.

The encounter between Nigeria and Cameroon is a classic rivalry that dates back almost four decades. Fierce competition, passionate fan bases, and high-stakes encounters have characterized these matches.

The two nations have emerged as the most successful football nations on the continent. The history between the teams includes three instances where Cameroon emerged victorious over Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations finals, adding an extra layer of significance to their recent clash.

Saturday’s fixture is tipped as the most challenging round of 16 clash as two AFCON giants met for a place in the last 8.

The win sets up an exciting quarter-final clash for Nigeria, who will face Angola in the next round.

Here’s a closer look at the iconic football rivalry among Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon and why the banter can never die soon.

History

The rivalry between Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon is deeply rooted in historical, cultural, and geopolitical factors. Each country has a rich footballing tradition and a long history of success in continental and international competitions.

Nigeria boasts a solid footballing pedigree, with a powerhouse status in African football. The Super Eagles have won the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) three times and have regularly qualified for the FIFA World Cup, achieving notable success on the global stage.

Ghana has a proud footballing history, often considered one of the giants of West African football. The Black Stars have won the AFCON on four occasions and made significant contributions to African football at the international level, with memorable World Cup appearances.

The Indomitable Lions are one of the dominant forces in Central African football. Cameroon has consistently been among Africa’s football elite With five AFCON titles and several notable FIFA World Cup performances, including a quarter-final appearance in 1990.

Historical Key moments between Nigeria and Cameroon

The rivalry between Nigeria and Cameroon has produced numerous memorable matches over the years. Narrow margins and moments of individual brilliance have often decided these matches.

Before last Saturday’s round of 16 encounters, it was the eighth meeting between Nigeria and Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, with three previous games being finals (1984, 1988 and 2000).

1984 AFCON FINAL

Cameroon defeated Nigeria 3-1 to win its first championship at the 1984 African Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast. Cameroon paraded stars like Roger Milla, Joseph-Antoine Bell and Theophile Abega, who won against Adegboye Onigbinde Super Eagles team led by the late Stephen Keshi, Kingsley Paul, Paul Okoku, Muda Lawal, Humphrey Edobor, Yisa Sofoluwe and James Etokebe among the starters.

1988 AFCON FINAL

Nigeria suffered another painful 1-0 defeat at the 1988 AFCON final in Morocco, with the Indomitable Lions sealing a second AFCON title at the expense of the West Africans courtesy of a goal scored from the penalty spot by Emmanuel Kunde.

Henry Nwosu’s powerful header from Sam Okwaraji’s pull-out on the right sailed past Antoine-Bell, but referee Idrissa Sarr from Mauritania ruled off the strike. Cameroon scored 10 minutes into the second half when Eboigbe impeded Roger Milla, and Emmanuel Kunde fired past Peter Rufai from the spot.

2000 AFCON FINAL

The subsequent high-profile encounter between the rivals was yet another AFCON final, held at the Lagos National Stadium for the AFCON 2000 tournament, co-hosted by Ghana and Nigeria. In front of the Eagles’ 60,000 fans, the Lions roared to a 2-0 lead within the half-hour after Samuel Eto’o and Patrick Mboma’s goals gave the Indomitable Lions an early lead.

Raphael Chukwu-Ndukwe scored to reduce the deficit before halftime; early in the second half, Austine Okocha equalised for Nigeria, and the game ended 2-2 after full time. Despite playing at home and with huge supporters, Nigeria eventually lost 4-3 on spot-kicks, making it the third AFCON final victory for Cameroon. The Central Africans denied their West African neighbours what would have been Nigeria’s third AFCON title.

“There was a lot of anxiety in the camp before the final because we knew Cameroon had many good players and history was on their side,” Benedict Akwuegbu, a member of the AFCON 2000 team, recounts in a chat with BBC Sport Africa.” They had players like Patrick Mboma, Samuel Eto’o and Rigobert Song, but sadly for us, it went into penalties, and we lost again.”

Football Rivalries: Why Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria remain the most intense in Africa
Football Rivalries: Why Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria remain the most intense in Africa

2004 AFCON Q-FINAL

The Lions were ‘double AFCON defending champions’, having won in Ghana-Nigeria 2000 and Mali 2002. Samuel Eto’o slotted past Vincent Enyeama to open the score for Cameroon. A few minutes later, Autine Jay Jay Ochacha levelled up for Nigeria as both teams fought fiercely in a supercharged second period; John Utaka neatly converted Nwankwo Kanu’s pass to hand Nigeria a 2-1 win.

2019 AFCON

That day, at the Alexandria Stadium in Egypt, the Super Eagles came from 1-2 down to defeat Cameroon 3-2 in the round of 16 fixtures to reach the quarter-finals. Odion Ighalo scored two of the goals, with Alex Iwobi netting the winner.

Historical Key Moments Between Nigeria and Ghana

2002 AFCON

The Super Eagles and the Black Stars faced off in the 2002 African Cup of Nations quarter finals stage in Mali. Besides Garba Lawal securing a late winner for Nigeria, the newspapers were filled with headlines about Ike Shorunmu, who collapsed after a clash with a Ghanaian player. Isaac Okoronkwo’s errant pass nearly allowed the Black Stars to take the lead, but the goalkeeper fainted while attempting to rectify the situation following the collision. He was subsequently rushed to the hospital and revived with oxygen assistance.

2002 FIFA World Cup Qualification

Ghana faced Nigeria in the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Former Black Stars winger Charles Asampong Taylor shared an encounter he had with former Super Eagles defender Taribo West. During that match, the Black Stars managed a goalless draw, but according to Taylor, he received threats from some Nigerian players who warned him to reduce his dribbling or risk leaving the field injured. When he donned the Black Stars jersey, Charles Taylor felt overwhelmed when he saw star players like Jay-Jay Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu on the field.

2008 AFCON

During the 2008 African Cup of Nations, the Black Stars of Ghana faced off against the Nigerian Super Eagles in the quarterfinals. Yakubu Ayigbeni converted from the spot to give the Super Eagles an early lead. After scoring the goal, Nigeria celebrated by mocking Ghana’s famous kangaroo celebration.

2010 AFCON

During the 2010 edition of the tournament, Ghana took the lead in the 21st minute through Asamoah Gyan. Ghana held its lead in the dying minutes, securing its place in the final while leaving Nigeria’s title aspirations shattered.

2022 World Cup Qualification

The build-up to the 2022 World Cup qualifiers match was marked by intriguing developments between the two teams. The first leg of the playoff finished in a goalless draw at Kumasi, but Ghana bagged a crucial away goal through Thomas Partey. Upon arrival at Kumasi Airport, the Nigerian team was met with a steep boarding ramp that inconvenienced the players and staff. Nigeria paid the Gnaians back for their hostility as the stadium’s lights went off when the Black Star was training a day before their match.

The football rivalry among Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon is a testament to the sport’s passion, competitiveness, and cultural significance in Africa.

The three countries are undoubtedly among Africa’s biggest footballing nations, with 10 AFCON titles.

As these nations continue to vie for supremacy on the football pitch, the legacy of their rivalry will endure as an integral part of African football history.

The thrilling story of this rivalry showcases the best football on the African continent and the continent’s extensive sports heritage