Nigeria and Tunisia are heading for a rematch of the third place match of the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana, as both teams are set to battle at the same stage this Wednesday in Cairo, Egypt, megasportsarena.com reports.
Defeats by Algeria and Senegal respectively on Sunday set up an exact repeat of the bronze medal match from Ghana ’78 this midweek, but officials will pray to avoid the same stalemate that marred that game 41 years ago, when the Tunisians refused to complete the fixture.
The scoreline was tied at 1-1 when a goal awarded Nigeria by the centre referee was disputed by The Carthage Eagles, who stuck to their guns and refused to continue, thereby seeding the bronze medals to the then Green Eagles.
That marked a consolation of sort for the Eagles, who some six months earlier had been beaten on home soil during the 1978 World Cup final qualifier in Lagos by the same Tunisians, when an own goal by Godwin Odiye spoilt a handsome first leg away draw for the Nigerians.
Nigeria’s 1-0 loss at Lagos National Stadium was the ignition of a keen rivalry between both countries, which snowballed at Ghana ’78, but could not stop the Eagles from winning their second AFCON title in 1994 in Tunisia, but saw the North Africans eke out revenge en route to claiming their only continental title so far – back at home in 2004.
It was on February 11, 2004, when Tunisia got a massive scare in the semi-finals on home soil, as they had to rely on an 82nd minute equaliser from Badra to take the game into extra time, after Austin Okocha had put Nigeria ahead in the 67th minute, in front of a crowd of 56,000 at Stade 7 Novembre, Radès, and Peter Osaze Odemwingie’s lost kick from the resultant shoot-out helped the hosts reach the final.
Two years later, Nigeria beat Tunisia on penalties in the AFCON 2006 quarter-finals in Egypt, after a goal by Christian Ndubuisi Obodo netted an 8th minute lead for the Eagles, but the Tunisians fought back to take the game into extra time, in front of a crowd of 10,000 and referee Eddy Maillet from Seychelles, at Port Said Stadium.
Back to the present, Nigeria’s semi-final clash with Algeria on Sunday night looked to be headed for extra time (after a penalty from Odion Ighalo had cancelled out an own goal from William Troost-Ekong), but deep in injury time Riyad Mahrez sent a beautifully-struck free kick beyond the right hand of goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi to condemn the Eagles to this midweek’s consolation clash with Tunisia.
On their part, Tunisia’s game against Senegal went into 120 minutes, and an own goal from defender Dylan Bronn denied them a place in the final, but The Carthage Eagles can take comfort from knowing that they have already achieved their best Nations Cup performance since winning the title in 2004, even if they lose to Nigeria on Wednesday.
However, pride will be at stake, as Nigeria and Tunisia have met in 18 previous matches, with The Carthage Eagles getting six wins and five for the Super Eagles, while seven games have been drawn between them.
Dramatically, they have drawn their last five games, the most recent of which ended 1-1 in a group match at the 2016 Championship of African Nations (CHAN) in Rwanda; while their last AFCON clash also ended 1-1 in the quarter-finals of Egypt 2006, but Nigeria triumphed on penalties.
The last four AFCON matches between both teams are March 16, 1978 third place match in Accra, Ghana, which ended Nigeria 1-1 Tunisia, then awarded 2-0 to the Green Eagles, as the opponents abandoned play.
January 23, 2000 group stage in Lagos, which was Nigeria 4-2 Tunisia, February 11, 2004 semi-final in Rades, Tunisia, which also ended 1-1 and the hosts won 5-3 on penalties, as well as February 4, 2006 quarter-final in Port Said, Egypt, which ended 1-1 and Nigeria won 6-5 on penalties.
In their last six games, Tunisia won two, with three draws and one loss, but The Carthage Eagles were unimpressive against The Teranga Lions of Senegal, who beat them 1-0 in Sunday’s semi-final.
During that game, Alain Giresse’s men failed to covert a penalty that could have given them the win and then conceded an own goal in extra time, such that they will play for pride and aim for a consolation when they face Nigeria in midweek.