HomeSportsNigeria’s Osimhen Rescues Draw Against Equatorial Guinea in AFCON Opener

Nigeria’s Osimhen Rescues Draw Against Equatorial Guinea in AFCON Opener

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Nigeria’s star striker Victor Osimhen scored a vital equalizer to salvage a 1-1 draw against Equatorial Guinea in their first match of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Abidjan on Sunday.

The Napoli forward, who has netted 21 goals in 33 appearances for his country, headed home a cross from Ademola Lookman in the 38th minute, just two minutes after Iban Salvador had given Equatorial Guinea a shock lead with a clinical finish.

The Super Eagles, who have won the continental trophy three times, dominated the game and created numerous chances, but were denied by the heroics of Equatorial Guinea goalkeeper Jesus Owono, who plays for Spanish second-division side Alaves.

Owono made several outstanding saves, including a point-blank stop from Osimhen in the second half, to frustrate the Nigerians and earn his team a valuable point in Group A.

Equatorial Guinea, who qualified for the tournament as one of the best third-placed teams in the qualifiers, showed resilience and organization to hold off the Nigerian onslaught.

The result leaves both teams with one point each, behind Ivory Coast, who beat Guinea-Bissau 2-0 on Saturday in the opening game of the tournament.

Nigeria will face the hosts in a potentially crucial clash on Thursday, while Equatorial Guinea will take on Guinea-Bissau, who are making their second appearance at the AFCON.

The top two teams from each of the six groups, plus the four best third-placed teams, will advance to the knockout stage of the competition, which runs until February 6.

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr said he was disappointed with the draw, but praised his players for their efforts.

“We wanted to win this game, but we faced a very good goalkeeper who made some fantastic saves. We had more than 20 shots on goal, but we could not score more than one goal,” he said.

“I think we played well, we controlled the game, we had the possession, we had the opportunities, but we missed the final touch. We have to work on that and improve our finishing.”

He added that he was confident his team would bounce back in the next game against Ivory Coast, who are one of the favorites to win the tournament.

“We know it will be a difficult game, but we are ready for the challenge. We have a good team, we have a good spirit, and we have a good chance to qualify for the next round,” he said.

Equatorial Guinea coach Angel Lopez said he was proud of his players for their performance and their attitude.

“We knew it would be a very tough game because Nigeria is one of the best teams in Africa. They have a lot of quality players, they have a lot of experience, they have a lot of power,” he said.

“But we prepared well, we worked hard, we defended well, we were compact, we were disciplined, and we were brave. We scored a beautiful goal, and we had a fantastic goalkeeper who saved us many times.”

He said his team would try to build on the positive result and fight for a place in the last 16.

“We are happy with this point, but we are not satisfied. We want to do more, we want to compete, we want to make history. We have two more games to play, and we will give everything to achieve our objective,” he said.

The AFCON, which is held every two years, is the biggest football event in Africa and attracts millions of fans across the continent and beyond.

The tournament, which was postponed from 2023 due to the coronavirus pandemic, features 24 teams and is being hosted by Ivory Coast for the first time since 1984.

Source: Reuters

 

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