Angola’s tragedies against Nigeria … Why Eagles ‘ll fly to victory By Ori Martins

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The fears of many Nigerians on the 2023 Nations Cup quarter final fixture which has paired Nigeria against Angola is easily justifiable if you consider the fact that in all previous games against the South African country, the Eagles had triumphed in only two, drawing five and losing two also. In all, Nigeria scored eight and conceded seven. This is not a very sparkling result. Therefore, Angola is one team the Super Eagles should be dreaded any day, any time.

The first time Nigeria and Angola met was an international friendly that ended 0 – 0 in Launda. The last was the ill fated 2006 World Cup qualifier which ended 1 – 1 in Kano on June 18, 2005.

There is one factor you must consider about Nigeria – Angola clashes. Each time Nigeria is to play Angola, one form of problem or the other would rear its ugly head in the Eagles camp, or there will be a crisis raging within the NFF camp.

For instance, prior to the April 4, 1981 international friendly, the problem in Eagles’ camp was that of the search for a new coach and it really affected the team’s preparations for both the Nations and World Cup qualifiers.

The next game against Angola on April 9, 1983 also witnessed a sort of coaching problems but Eagles won 2 – 0. To buttress this point, after two weeks when the return fixture was observed in the Nations Cup qualifiers, Angola beat Nigeria 1 – 0 at home. The two coaches at each other’s throat then were Adegboye Onigbinde and Chris Udemezue.

In the African qualifying series for the Italia ’90 World Cup, CAF placed Nigeria, Gabon, Guinea, Cameroon and Angola in one group. That was not the problem.

The real crisis was again the confusion created by NFF in its selection of coaches. Paul Hamilton who had qualified Nigeria for both the Nations Cup in Morocco and Seoul Olympics, was in gloriously dropped for Germany’s Manfred Hoener. Hamilton was later made second coach in command.

Based on the foregoing, selection of players as well as tactical approaches were changed now and then. The most visible was when Sam Okwaraji complained that he was deployed deeply into the defensive midfield in the World Cup qualifier against Gabon on January 7, 1989 which Nigeria struggled to win 1 – 0 with Wole Odegbami registering his name in the scorers’ sheet.

In a way, Okwaraji’s complaint was the crisis that eventually rocked the Nigerian boat en route to Italia ’90. After the January 7 encounter against Gabon, the coaches “punished” Okwaraji as he was never invited again for any of the qualifiers until the match against Angola where he slumped and died.

Between January 7 and August 12, 1989 would give you eight months in which Super Eagles played Angola in Launda on January 22 (2 – 2) it ended., Guinea (1-1) on April 9., 3 – 0 versus Guinea in Ibadan., 2-0 versus Cameroon also in Ibadan on June 10., Gabon 2 – 1 on June 25 ., 3-0 against Zimbabwe and 1-1 in the reserve fixture.

The slogan on the lips of every Nigerian soccer fan was a simple rhetorical question: where is Sam Okwaraji? And in actual fact, why was Okwaraji missing from the list of invited Eagles when it was generally remarked that he was patriotic, dedicated and humble, his sterling skills notwithstanding?

Thus, tragedy struck when Okwaraji returned to action on August 12, against Angola in Lagos. This is the game Nigerians remember vividly when Angola is mentioned. Following the death of Okwaraji, Eagles players were both psychologically down and emotionally downcast, leading to the 1-0 loss to Cameroon on August 27,1989 and Nigeria was out of Italia ’90 World Cup Finals.

Remarkably, CAF, again grouped Nigeria and Angola in one basket, Group D, for the Germany 2006 World Cup qualifiers. The Angola tragedies against Nigeria knocked at the door once more.

First, Austin JayJay Okocha who was in super form refused to report for the all important qualifier against Angola on June 20, 2004 in Launda. Second, even Obafemi Martin who got the two goals against Rwanda in Abuja equally did not show up in Angola.

Third, something must have dramatically gone wrong between Eagles handlers and/or NFF authorities that made Okocha who scored the first goal in Nigeria’s 1 – 2 victory against Mali away on February 13, 2004,not to show up for the Super Eagles from this date till Nigeria lost to Angola on June 20, 2005!!! Did you notice a play back of Okwaraji on Okocha to this regard? Talking about Angola troubles for Nigeria.

It was Fabrice Akwa’s 84th minute goal that put Nigeria on tight corner in that tie at home. And on June 18, 2005, Nigeria’s most reliable striker of that time, Obafemi Martin failed to report for the game against Angola in Kano – another round of trouble for Nigeria from Angola.

The worst disaster waiting to happen was when the game was taken to Kano. Can you see how Angola usually puts Nigeria on confusion track each time both sides are to lock horns in football. Nigeria scored but Angola equalized and at the end of the day both teams finished on 17 points but Angola qualified on the basis of head to head.

Shockingly, in Nigeria’s last game against Cameroon, goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali was stretchered out for a serious injury. For obvious reasons, this created panic among the Nigetian fans – another Nigerian tragedy whenever the Eagles are set to meet Angola. However, report indicate that the goalkeeper has recovered and would be fit to play Angola.

It is important to point out that this is the first time Nigeria and Angola are meeting in a Nations Cup Finals. All the other previous encounters were either friendly or qualifiers for World Cup/ Nations Cup.

The verdict? Eagles will triumph!!!

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