Old Friends Do Battle

Nigeria and Cameroon have a lot of history; economically, politically, socially and on the football pitch.

The two West African giants who are in first and second place respectively in CAF’s Group B 2018 World Cup qualifying will play back to back on Friday September 1st and September 4th and major implications are at stake.

The current standings for CAF Group B 2018 World Cup Qualifying

Nigeria are currently in first place with six points, winning both of their AFCON qualifying matches. They are sitting 4 points ahead of Cameroon, the current champions of Africa. It is simple for Nigeria, win on Friday, win on Monday, hope for a draw between Zambia and Algeria then you are in the World Cup, simple right? Not with Nigeria.

The Nigerian team preparing for Cameroon.
Cameroon preparing for Nigeria

Head to head record

Nigeria and Cameroon are no strangers. Cameroon has hurt Nigeria when it has mattered most, denying Nigeria a place at the 1990 World Cup, Cameroon beat Nigeria 1–0 on August 27, 1989. In the final of AFCON 1984, Cameroon beat Nigeria 3–1, in 1988 another AFCON final, a 1–0 loss to Cameroon and Lagos in 2000, arguably the worst of the lot. Nigeria lost in controversial fashion with Victor Ikepba’s penalty crossing the line only for the assistant ref to say it did not.

The last time the two nations played was in an international friendly in Belgium, on 11 October 2015 Nigeria won 3–0. Efe Ambrose, Moses Simon and Odion Ighalo provided the goals(Efe is the only scorer who is not in the current squad).

Cameroon and Nigeria’s squad’s. Iwobi is injured and was replaced by Aaron Samuel and Uche Agbo was also called up.

Keys To The Match

Midfield Battle-

When Nigeria played against South Africa in June 2017, they had a midfield of Etebo, Onazi and Ndidi. These players are good within their individual right but as a collective, it was disgusting. The midfield was overran and there was not a player who could hold the ball and dictate play. John Obi Mikel is finally healthy and the captain has been recalled. What Mikel brings to the team is an abudance of experience and the ability to dictate the tempo, something which is needed against Cameroon, who’s midfield is not their strongest suit.

Cameroon’s winning mindset-

Cameroon were not favorites during the AFCON 2017, but you gave them a tiny shot because of name recognition. When teams such as Senegal and Egypt were there you would think that they would win the tournament, right? Nope, football does not work that way. Cameroon won the tournament and when their backs were against the wall, they found a way to win, that sort of mentality is invaluable. Players such as Bassogog, Moukandjo, Aboubakar and Ondoa provided moments of individual brilliance, this was evident throughout the AFCON tournament, especially in the final when Egypt were up 1–0 and ended up losing 2–1.

Experience-

When Nigeria played against South Africa in June 2017 and lost, they essentially put out a U23 squad, young, very talented and brimming with potential the squad was but that lack of experience was evident. Coach Rohr learned his lesson and decided to call up John Obi Mikel, Leon Balogun, Victor Moses and Odion Igahlo,players who have been there for Nigeria and will understand the task at hand.

Physicality

Cameroon are what football commentators stereotypical say about black footballers “pacy” “strong” “physical”, you know, the typical stuff. Cameroon will look to make game against Nigeria as physical as they can. With Bassogog and Moukandjo, they will be creative outlets for Cameroon, Nigeria’s fullbacks have to be on their job. Nigeria can match that with players such as Aaron Samuel, Odion Igahlo, Anthony Nwakaeme and the defensive pairing of Leon Balogun and William Ekong will be back but tested.

Players to watch:

Nigeria: John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses, Kelechi Iheanacho and Ola Aina, Anthony Nwakaeme

Cameroon: Fabrice Olinga, Choupo Moting , Aboubakar Vincent , Moukandjo Benjamin, Bassogog Christian, Ondoa Fabrice

Both giants know what is at stake, for Nigeria it’s two more wins and you’re basically guaranteed a place at the World Cup 2018. You can also finally put the AFCON 2000 finals demons to bed. For Cameroon, as their coach Hugo Broos said “If we still want to have a chance of qualifying, we must take at least four points off Nigeria. Should we fail to achieve that target, I do not think it will be possible to qualify for Russia.”