By Akinwale Kasali
The Super Eagles of Nigeria finished its campaign at the 2019 African Cup of Nations on a consolatory note, winning the bronze medal for the eighth time in the history of AFCON.
Odion Jude Ighalo scored the only goal of the third place match against the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia in the third minute to register his fifth goal of the Championship and, also, to maintain his top position in the highest goal scoring cadre at the competition.
Ighalo could have increased his tally of goals, but he got injured in the closing stages of the first half and was subsequently substituted by youngster, Victor Osimhen.
With this triumph in the third place playoff, Nigeria has won eight third place matches in the AFCON tournament since inception in 1957.
The victory over Tunisia, and winning the bronze medal, is coming after Nigeria had won five bronze medals in a space of 12 years.
At 2002 AFCON hosted by Mali, Nigeria won bronze having defeated the host Mali in the third place match 1-0 courtesy of Yakubu Aiyegbeni.
Two years later in Tunisia, Nigeria also failed to make it to the final, losing to eventual winners, Tunisia, in the Semi Finals, but had to slug it out with Mali again in the third place playoff.
Again, Super Eagles defeated Mali 2-1, with goals from Austin Okocha and Peter Osaze Odemwengie.
At 2006 AFCON hosted by Egypt, Nigeria was defeated in the semi finals by Cote d’ Ivoire 1-0, courtesy Didier Drogba’s strike. Nigeria had to settle for bronze, defeating the Teranga Lions of Senegal 1-0 through Garba Lawal’s solitary strike.
Nigeria failed to go beyond the quarter final at AFCON 2008 hosted by Ghana, but repeated their semi finals feat at AFCON 2010 hosted in Angola.
The Pharaohs of Egypt dashed Nigeria’s hope of featuring in AFCON final once again since 2010 by humbling Nigeria 1-0 with Mohammed Aboutrika scoring.
Nigeria had to face the Desert Warriors of Algeria in the bronze medal match, with Nigeria winning 1-0 through the strike of Victor Obinna Nsofor.
In the history of AFCON no team has won the third place playoff more than Nigeria. Nigeria has recorded eight wins from eight, and are yet to lose any third place playoff.
The eventual winner of this year’s AFCON tournament will be known on Friday 19th, July, 2019 at the Cairo International Stadium in Egypt, when the Teranga Lions of Senegal and the Desert Warriors of Algeria lock horns to ascertain who is the King of African Football.
However, attention in Nigeria has shifted to what the fate of the Super Eagles Coach, Gernot Rohr will be. Quite a number of football stakeholders blame him for the not-too impressive performance of the team.
Segun Odegbami, a former international footballer, advised him to resign honourably. Former NFF Technical Director, Kashimawo Lalako blasted the Coach for “lacking tactical acumen.”
But NFF President, Amaju Pinnick says Rohr will not be sacked, but would, instead, be sent on a refresher course in Germany.
But another international, Dr Felix Owolabi has picked holes in that idea, disming the Coach Rohr as ” technically inept”, asking why the NFF would send him on a course when he is not a Nigerian.
But many ordinary football enthusiasts applaud the coach for his efforts so far, and say he is good for the team.
The next couple of weeks will decide Rohr’s fate.