Equatorial Guinea Extends Unbeaten Streak with Solid Performance against Nigeria in AFCON 2023
Equatorial Guinea, the underdogs of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023, showcased their resilience and determination by extending their unbeaten record to seven matches. In a creditable 1-1 draw against traditional heavyweights Nigeria at the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpé, Equatorial Guinea proved that they are a force to be reckoned with in the tournament.
The two teams had not faced each other since January 2018 when Nigeria emerged victorious. In the 11th minute of the match, Nigeria had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock. However, Zaidu Sanusi inexplicably misfired wide of the mark when presented with the simple task of finding the back of an empty net. It was a missed chance that Nigeria would come to regret.
Equatorial Guinea, on the other hand, had to be patient in their efforts to test Nigerian goalkeeper Stanley Nwabili. José Machín flashed a warning shot wayward of the goal, but it was in the 36th minute that Equatorial Guinea took the lead against the run of play. Iván Salvador expertly guided the ball into the bottom corner from the penalty spot, leaving Nwabili with no chance of stopping it.
Remarkably, Nigeria responded immediately from the restart and manufactured a well-crafted equalizer. Victor Osimhen, the 2023 CAF Footballer of the Year, rose at the back post to powerfully head home Ademola Lookman’s perfectly floated delivery. The quick response from Nigeria showcased their determination to secure a positive result in the match.
As the second half began, Nigeria sought to qualify for their 15th consecutive knockout stage appearance in the AFCON. They flew out of the traps, with Sanusi and Osimhen both denied by the quick-thinking Equatorial Guinea goalkeeper, Jesús Owono. Owono’s saves kept Nigeria from finding the back of the net and maintained Equatorial Guinea’s advantage.
In the final 20 minutes of the game, Owono once again came to the rescue of his nation, making a smart save to keep out Ola Aina’s single-handed strike. With time running out for Nigeria to avoid a disappointing result, all eyes were on Osimhen to deliver the winning goal. However, the Napoli striker’s finishing let him down as he frustratingly miscued his final opportunity, sending the ball wide of the post.
The 1-1 draw at the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpé handed Equatorial Guinea their first-ever point against Nigeria in an international tournament. It was a significant achievement for the underdogs and a testament to their growth as a team. On the other hand, the Super Eagles will be eager to bounce back in their next match against hosts Ivory Coast, who currently sit atop Group A after a victory over Guinea Bissau.
As the AFCON 2023 continues, Equatorial Guinea’s performance against Nigeria serves as a reminder that football is full of surprises. The underdogs can rise to the occasion and challenge the traditional heavyweights, making the tournament even more exciting and unpredictable.