As we have another Nigeria vs Cameroon clash in the Round of 16 at the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations, it marks a showdown between two football powerhouses at AFCON 2024.
The initial significant encounter between these giants was the 3-1 defeat of the Super Eagles by the Indomitable Lions in the 1984 final in Bouake.
Fast forward to Saturday in Abidjan, and history repeats itself, recreating the fixture from four decades ago. However, this time, the stage is the Round of 16, not the final, as the enduring football rivalry between these two nations unfolds.
The last time the two teams met was at the same Round of 16 stage in 2019 when Egypt hosted the competition.
Odion Ighalo gave Nigeria the lead in the 19th minute, but Cameroon fought back to equalise through Stephane Bahoken in the 41st minute and then went ahead from a Clinton Njie goal three minutes later.
Nigeria didn’t fold and deservedly won the game in an incredible second-half performance that saw Ighalo score his second of the game and then Alex Iwobi with the winner in the 66th minute.
Nigeria vs Cameroon – what has changed since then?
Cameroon coaching musical chairs
Both teams have changed coaches since the last time they met at the Africa Cup of Nations, as Dutchman Clarence Seedorf was sacked by the Cameroon Football Association in July 2022 and replaced by Portuguese manager Sergio Conceicao.
The former Porto manager was tasked with seeing the team through the next AFCON in 2021, which Cameroon hosted.
Cameroon was booted out of the tournament at the semi-final stage by Egypt but claimed third place after defeating Burkina Faso 5-3 on penalties after it ended 3-3 in regulation time.
Conceicao got the boot immediately after that game.
Incumbent coach Rigobert Song was then appointed by his friend and former teammate Samuel Eto’o and has been with the team since then, taking them to the World Cup in Qatar and the Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast.
Nigeria coaching crossroads
Gernot Rohr, who led the Super Eagles to that 3-2 win over Cameroon at the 2019 AFCON and also claimed the bronze in that tournament, had always been at odds with the Nigeria Football Federation.
It all seemed well and rosy until matters got to a head when the Franco-German was sacked in December 2021 in what the Federation described as ‘averting a disaster waiting to happen.’
Former player Augustine Eguavoen was given responsibility for the team as Nigeria headed to the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon. Nigeria crashed out of the tournament in the Round of 16, losing to Tunisia 1-0.
Eguavoen’s job was safe at that point but was not to last long as he got the chop during the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers as Ghana, whom Nigeria faced in the last leg of the qualifiers, beat the Eagles to the ticket.
Eguavoen, who took the Super Eagles to a third-place finish at the AFCON in 2006, was sacked.
His replacement, Jose Peseiro, is currently in charge of the Super Eagles at the Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast and will lead Nigeria out against Cameroon.
How the Nigeria and Cameroon squads changed
Nigeria look similar 2019
There have been lots of playing personnel changes for Nigeria since they met Cameroon last at the Africa Cup of Nations.
From the squad of 23 that went to Egypt for the tournament, only 10 are in the Ivory Coast for the current tournament.
Francis Uzoho is the only surviving goalkeeper from the class of 2019, while, the defenders, Ola Aina, William Troost-Ekong, Chidozie Awaziem, and Kenneth Omeruo made the cut in 2024.
Alex Iwobi is the only midfielder who made it from the Ivory Coast, while Victor Osimhen, who had a nominal role in Egypt in 2019, leads the forwards that include Moses Simon, Paul Onuachu, and Samuel Chukwueze.
Cameroon are unrecognisable
The Indomitable Lions are almost unrecognizable from that cold windy night in Alexandria in the 3-2 loss to the Super Eagles in the Round of 16 at the 2019 Africa Cup in Egypt.
Out of the 23 registered players at the 2019 tournament, only five players have made the Cameroon squad at the Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast.
Two goalkeepers, Andre Onana and his cousin Fabrice Ondoa, Napoli midfielder André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, and forwards Clinton N’Jie were picked for this tournament.
Nigeria vs Cameroon – AFCON 2024 tale of the tape
The changes in player turnover may impact the dynamics of the match, but current statistics indicate a close competition. In this tournament, Nigeria have scored three goals and conceded one, while Cameroon have scored five and conceded six goals.
Give or take, the team that scores more and defends better will likely win the game, but history suggests that any match between these two rivals is never an easy one.
The clash between Nigeria and Cameroon in the Round of 16 is poised to be another thrilling chapter in their enduring football rivalry.