Nigeria and Cameroon will play each other in the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 on Saturday at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium.
In Group A, Nigeria finished second behind Equatorial Guinea. Meanwhile, Cameroon secured a place in the knockout stages by coming from behind to beat The Gambia. They finished second in Group C, just behind Senegal.
In their final game of Group A, Nigeria struggled to score against winless Guinea-Bissau. However, they managed to secure a win and qualify for the knockout stage in second place.
Despite creating more clear-cut chances than any other team in the competition (13), Nigeria have only scored three goals at AFCON 2023.
Victor Osimhen, the African Footballer of the Year, has been struggling to score in games against Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Guinea-Bissau. His expected goals (xG) underperformance is the worst at the tournament.
Nigeria needs Osimhen to return to form as they enter the crucial stage of the competition. If they cannot convert their chances, relying solely on their defensive performance may lead to early elimination.
Coach Jose Peseiro warned his team to improve their execution in the knockout rounds.
Cameroon and Nigeria have a long-standing rivalry at the Cup of Nations. Cameroon’s victory in the decider in Lagos in 2000 is still hard for many Super Eagles supporters to swallow.
However, Cameroon has lost their grip on this rivalry, with the Indomitable Lions not winning in their last three competitive meetings, including a 3-2 loss at the 2019 finals in Egypt.
It remains to be seen if Song’s side can turn the tide this weekend. Cameroon’s dependence on crossing is apparent in their games against Guinea, Senegal, and The Gambia, with their first game against a short-handed Syli National highlighting that approach.
Whether it works against a more coordinated team is questionable, but Song’s team is unlikely to change tactics against their age-old rivals in the round of 16.
Nigeria Africa Cup of Nations Form:
D W W
Nigeria Form (All Competitions):
D D L D W W
Cameroon Africa Cup of Nations Form:
D L W
Cameroon Form (All Competitions):
W D D D L W
Peseiro used a back-three formation against Guinea-Bissau, and he may continue with that formation for the rest of the competition.
Alhassan Yussuf and William Troost-Ekong should return to the squad, but Yussuf’s involvement is uncertain unless Nigeria revert to a back-four or alter the 3-4-2-1 for a 3-5-2.
Song dropped Andre Onana for Cameroon’s final group game against Gambia, and the Manchester United goalkeeper’s place is uncertain before Saturday’s game.
With reports pointing to the return of Vincent Aboubakar from injury, Cameroon could be tempted to play the centre-forward from the start against the three-time AFCON winners.
Georges-Kevin N’Koudou has created the most chances of any player at this year’s finals (10) and should play a pivotal role for the Indomitable Lions against Nigeria.
Possible Starting Lineups
Aina, Bassey, Ekong, Ajayi, Bassey;
Chukwueze, Osimhen, Lookman
Castelletto, Wooh, Tolo;
Mbiayi, Ntcham, Anguissa, Yongwa;
Ekambi, Aboubakar, N’Koudou
Prediction: Nigeria 1-2 Cameroon
Cameroon’s momentum from defeating Gambia should stand them in good stead in Saturday’s encounter. They lost the last two encounters against Nigeria at AFCONs 2004 and 2019.