A deflected shot from Ramadan Sobhi from a 64th minute corner was enough to seal Nigeria’s fate in Alexandria and condemn the “Super Eagles” to a second successive failure to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations.
With just one game left and only the group winners qualifying, Nigeria needed to win the match against Group G leaders Egypt to qualify for the tournament in Gabon next year and started on the front foot, dominating possession. But their passing was sloppy and lacked penetration in the final third.
Just like in the previous match against Egypt in Kaduna on Friday, the Nigerian midfield just lacked the ability and imagination to create any meaningful chances for front-man Odion Ighalo. Egypt were more organised, covering spaces defensively and sharp on the break.
Nigeria only started creating decent chances and playing with a sense of purpose after Egypt scored. In the 72nd minute Arsenal starlet Alex Iwobi came on for Aminu Umar and showed a bit more imagination and movement than his older team-mates. He set up Ighalo in the 77th minute but the Watford striker couldn’t get his shot off.
Arguably Nigeria’s best player was winger Victor Moses, who at least seemed to be trying to win the game. But he wanted to do it all on his own and as a result, made a lot poor decisions. He nearly came close to levelling things in the 83rd minute with a left foot screamer that cannoned off the post.
It was a night of despair for Nigerian fans as they watched a rudderless team that was crying out for leadership fail miserably to qualify for the tournament they won in 2013. Former coach Sunday Oliseh quit weeks before the ties against Egypt citing attempts by the football federation to influence his team selections.
On the night, there were about three players that didn’t justify their selection. Chelsea’s Mikel Obi, who has been chosen as captain, decided this was a night to bring on his customary lukewarm, crab-like, uninspiring, shirking of responsibility game.
In the end, the team was not good enough and they got what they deserved from the match – nothing.
These are seriously reduced circumstances for Nigerian football. One fan on social media wondered whether it was an opportunity to learn lessons. But no lessons were learned when Nigeria didn’t qualify for the 2015 tournament. No lessons learned when they failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2006. No lessons learned when Nigeria went out in the first round of the World Cup in 2002 and 2010. Chinua Achebe once said that one thing we have learnt from history is that we fail to learn from history.