Recent fixtures and happenings might not reflect the fierce rivalry and downright animosity that these eternal rivals once shared. But it’s still locked in our subconscious and anytime we see this exciting fixture, a subtle revenge feeling brew within us, a mild anger ignited by the hate for these “cheating” and “dirty” Lions from across the Bakassi.
The Eagles, somehow against the animal kingdom food chain, are the giants of this eternal tilt having gorged out the eyes of the Lions 10 times and have forced them to share the spoils on 4 occasions out of the 20 battles that these teams have fought against each other.
Despite the statistical edge that the Eagles have, the eargerness building towards that next month double header surely has a dab of scary feelings to it and you can’t help but call it anxiety. We are anxious to know if the out-of-form Uwa Echiejile can tame the pacy and direct Christian Bassogog on the left wing, worried of how brutally the red-hot Vincent Aboubakar will tear through our inexperience center backs, bothered about how this experiment of a Super Eagle side will handle the fireworks reigning African champions.
Away from all that, let’s go retro and enjoy or endure, in no other what-so-ever, 5 of the most exciting or painful battles between these two (former) African Heavyweights.
Let the throwback begin:
AFCON Tunisia 2004 (Quarter Final): CAMEROON 1-2 NIGERIA
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon were the defending champions of the Nations cup basking in the era of a deep-rooted dominance of African Football and Nigeria, as ever, had constellation of super stars who threatened to pull down anything. But there was another subplot to this clash in Monastri. Jay Jay Okocha, the BBC African Footballer of the year, was shunned by CAF, which handed the CAF Footballer of the year to Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o and subtly, it was a battle for supremacy between these two african stars. Amazingly, both players scored and their goals came with just 5 minutes difference.
Eto’o scored first from a counter attack after the Eagles defence was slit open by Geremi’s perfect pass and Jay Jay replied almost immediately, curling in a free-kick that left Idris Kameni rooted to his spot. The game was sealed and the hegemony of Cameroon on African football was broken when Nwankwo Kanu languidly put a through-ball to John Utaka, whose firm shot ricocheted-in off the upright.
AFCON Ghana/Nigeria 2000 (Final): NIGERIA 2-2 CAMEROON (3-4) on penalties
Nigerians will never forget that picture. A crew-cut wearing Victor Ikpeba with hands on his head as the referee Mourad Daami signaled that his penalty, which subsequent TV replays showed clearly crossed the line, was missed.
Agonizingly, it was in front of thousands of Nigerians that filled the National Stadium in Surulere to its Floodlights. They were all expecting the Super Eagles to win another AFCON trophy on home soil like they did in 1980. The Lions punctured the excitement with two first-half goals from Samuel Eto’o and Wilfred Mboma but Jay Jay Okocha dragged the Eagles back into this before Chukwu Nduweke restored parity. And off we went to Penalty shootout, Nwankwo Kanu and Ikpeba were the only two that missed theirs as Cameroun “robbed” over 30,000 Nigerians at the stadium in broad daylight.
Italia ’90 World Cup qualifier (2nd leg): CAMEROON 1-0 NIGERIA
If you think that incident in 2000 was sad, how about the one 10 years before. When Green Eagles could have qualified for their first World cup in Italy but the Lions smash-grabbed the berth through a chink lost of concentration. The Eagles were soaring high under the watch of Dutchman Clemen Westerhof, having beaten the Cameroonians 2-0 in Lagos and only needed a draw in Yaoundé to be on their way to the ‘Cup de Monde’ but the death of Samuel Okparaji just 17 days before that ultimate clash weighed the team down psychologically. A Francois Oman-Biyik’s bullet header off a well threaded corner was all the Central Africans needed to snatch the Play-off tickets from Nigeria and the rest is history.
AFCON Ivory coast 1984 (final): NIGERIA 1-3 CAMEROON
This was the first time these two countries will be meeting in a Nations cup and coincidentally it was in the final. Nigeria were looking to add another AFCON trophy to the one they got 4 years before while Cameroon, on the other hand, were in their first AFCON final.
Mudashiru Lawal drew the first blood for the Green Eagles before the Lions fought back and replied with three goals from from Rene N’Djeya, Theophile Abega and Ernest Ebongue to seal their first ever AFCON title.
AFCON Morocco 1988 (Final): NIGERIA 0-1 CAMEROON
Another AFCON final between these teams, another controversy. Henry Nwosu’s first-half goal was inexplicably chopped off for an offside but the Cameroonians sure know how to make Nigerians grumble and they stole the match and trophy with a penalty converted by Emmanuel Konde.