AFCON: Super Eagles Defeat Leone Stars 3-2 to fly to the Final Tournament.

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The Super Eagles of Nigeria left it late to defeat Leone Stars of Sierra Leone on Sunday 3-2 in a Group A match at the 22,000 capacity Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium in Monrovia, Liberia which included the Liberian President, George Weah as the team flies into the AFCON final tournament.




Napoli dynamite, Victor Osimhen scored a brace in the 19th and 32nd minutes to clearly maintain highest goal scorer at the qualifying stage with 7 goals including a double brace against Sao Tome and two goals ahead of Sadio Mane of Senegal who is next to him on the CAF AFCON 23 top Scorers chart.



Osimhen slammed in the first goal in Monrovia in the 19th minute from a clearance off Captain Kenneth Omeruo and scrambled in the second one from Alex Iwobi pass to become the man to be hacked by the Leone Stars Defence.



Anderlecht forward, Mustapha Bundu reduced the tally for the Leone Stars in the 41st minute from a Samadia assist before Augustine Kargbo who plays for Italian side, Crotone leveled up 2-2 in the 84th minute which rattled the Super Eagles forcing the Nigerian bench to make vital changes from six available official opportunities bringing Kelechi Ihenacho of Leicester and Taiwo Awoniyi of Nottingham Forest for Osimhen who had hamstring injury and Samuel Chukwueze among other changes.



The match also gave a water break per each half to douse the 270C weather as permitted by Ref. Mahmood Ali Ismail from Sudan which the coaches used for pep talks to the players who seems to find the artificial grass of the stadium tough to cope with as the ball bounces off too sharply.



Ihenacho fondly called senior man in camp got a pass from Sanusi toed it into net 90+5th minute and ran into the net to ensure there is no diversion for Nigeria’s winning goal that actually qualified Nigeria for the tournament finals.



Nigeria slammed the Leone Stars in the first encounter on 9th June 2022 with a 2-1 drubbing when Guinea Bissau same day walloped Sao Tome and Principe 6-1. On the 2nd Day fixtures played 13th June last year Sierra Leone played 2-2 draw with Guinea Bissau while Nigeria took Sao Tome to football classroom with a 10-0 drubbing on their land.



.There is an outstanding match for Day 6 in the group, to be played on 8th September 2023 when Guinea Bissau will host Sierra Leone and Nigeria will host Sao Tome.



Nigeria leads group A with 12 points from 4 wins and a loss now followed by Guinea Bissau with 10 points from 3 wins, a draw and a loss; Sierra Leone is 3rd with 5 points with a win, two draws and two loses while Sao Tome sits at the bottom with a point from a draw.



Nigeria and Sierra Leone has met six times before with Nigeria dominating with four wins and two draws. On 11th October 2008 Nigeria de-shined the Stars 4-0; beat them in an International Friendly on 9th February 2-1; smashed the Stars 2-0 in a WAFU encounter on 11th September 2017; played goalless in an AFCON match of 17th November 2020; after the 13th November 2020 duel in Nigeria that ended 4-4 when Nigeria was leading 4-3 and the last meeting of 9th June 2022 also an AFCON match that Nigeria won 2-1.



Sierra Leone has appeared in only three AFCON finals of 1994, 1996 and 2021 losing all appearances at group stages. Whereas Nigeria is three times champions of the African title in 1980 at the National Stadium under Christian Chukwu as Captain, 1994 in Tunisia and 2013. Nigeria also won the CHAN Cup called Cup of Nations meant for only local players two times. Nigeria is a star of African football.



Here are the countries already qualified for the AFCON finals scheduled for Ivory Coast in January namely from Group A- Nigeria and Guinea Bissau; Group B Burkina Faso and Cape Verde; Group C- Namibia and Cameroun; Group D – Egypt and Guinea; Group E – ??; Group F- Algeria and Tanzania; Group G- ??; Group H- Ivory Coast and Zambia; Group I-??; Group J- Equatorial Guinea and Tunisia; Group K- South Africa and Morocco Group L-Senegal and Mozambique. A total 24 teams are lined up to contest in Ivory Coast.



At the last edition played in Cameroun, Senegal lifted the trophy with Egypt as Runners-up; hosts Cameroun won the Bronze and Burkina Faso placed 4th.



A total 100 goals was scored in Cameroun with the Indomitable Lions Captain, Vincent Aboubakar winning the Golden Boot with 8 goals; Senegalese Captain, Sadio Mane was Best Player; Best Young player was Issa Kabore of Burkina Faso; Golden Gloves for Best Goal Keeper went to Edoard Mendy of Senegal and Senegal also carted home the Fair Play award.

The Author, Eniola Olatunji (Formerly Yomi Kassim) has been in the media for some 46 years with vast experience in Radio Sports Commentaries and Newspaper reporting. He worked as Presenter/Producer on many radio stations and Reporter/Editor in some Newspapers,

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