The Super Eagles of Nigeria pipped the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia 1-0 in the third place match of the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations in a desperately underwhelming game in Cairo on Wednesday.
Odion Jude Ighalo, top scorer in the qualifying series, look set to win the top scorer’s award of the competition after a second minute goal that turned out to be the only thing that separated both teams after 90 minutes at the Al Salam Stadium.
Left back Jamilu Collins strayed to the edge of the Tunisian box and heaved a pull-out that defender Oussama Hadadi and goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia managed to make a hash of, leaving Ighalo with the simplest of duties to tap in from close range.
In the 12th minute, Ighalo escaped the attention of the Tunisian rearguard and lifted the ball past Cherifia, but Yassine Meriah cleared desperately from the goal-line.
Two minutes later, Ferjahi Sassi, after cleanly taking care of Wilfred Ndidi, fired a shot from 20 yards that screamed away from goal even as goalkeeper Francis Uzoho paid close attention.
The Eagles should have increased the tally with the opportunities presented thereafter, but Ndidi, with clear sight of goal after a defender failed to track well, hammered his shot miles away from goal, and Oghenekaro Etebo made mere back-passes of two free-kicks in the 30th and 36th minutes.
On resumption, Cherifia had to be alert to push away a fierce shot by Samuel Chukwueze, and with nine minutes to go, substitute Victor Osimhen dragged his shot too wide after stepping clear of Hadadi.
In the 89th minute, Tunisia came close to getting an equalizer when Naim Sliti’s header from a corner drifted wide. But Nigeria posed the greater danger in added time, as substitute Samuel Kalu showed Etebo how to take free-kicks, with his sense of purpose and direction.
Victory meant an eighth bronze medal from the Africa Cup of Nations for Nigeria, following earlier wins in 1976, 1978, 1992, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010. It also preserved Nigeria’s record of never losing a bronze medal at the Africa Cup of Nations in the 62 –year history of the championship.