How Nigeria avenged Cameroon’s 1984 AFCON triumph in 2023 on same pitch

~Compiled by Rose Moses

In 1984, Cameroon defeated Nigeria 3-1 to win their first AFCON title at Stade Felix Houphouet Boigny in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Forty years later, on the same pitch, Nigeria got their revenge by defeating Cameroon 2-0, securing a spot in the quarterfinals of AFCON 2023.

This victory marked a significant moment in the ongoing rivalry between the two teams at the African Cup of Nations.

The 1984 African Cup of Nations Final was a football match that took place on 18 March 1984, and was the final match of the 14th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations).

No doubt, the rivalry between Nigeria and Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is a storied one, with both teams being among the heavyweights of African football, The two nations have a long history of competitive and significant encounters at the tournament. 

While Nigeria holds a better head-to-head record of 12 wins and eight draws over them, Cameroon, have won the more significant fixtures, including three final victories over Nigeria in 1984, 1988, and 2000. The rivalry is further fueled by the fact that they are neighboring countries, adding a regional dimension to their competition. 

And so, any upcoming matches between the two teams are highly anticipated, with revenge, bragging rights, and regional rivalry being key talking points. The most recent (yesterday’s) encounter in AFCON 2023 saw Nigeria secure a 2-0 victory over Cameroon, marking a significant moment in their ongoing rivalry

For the record and as as reported by the BBC, when the final whistle blew after Cameroon at the ongoing AFCON sealed a dramatic stoppage-time win over The Gambia in their final Group C game at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, another chapter in one of the continent's greatest rivalries was confirmed.

“That 3-2 victory for the Indomitable Lions set up a last-16 clash with neighbours Nigeria at an iconic venue in Abidjan which holds history for both sides,” reports the BBC.

Of course, the two countries are undoubtedly among Africa's biggest footballing nations, with eight continental titles and two Olympic gold medals between them.

"It's the biggest fixture in African football, in terms of rivalry and history between both sides," former Nigeria captain Mutiu Adepoju told BBC Sport Africa.

"Cameroon has denied Nigeria the Nations Cup title in three finals. No other country can boast that in Africa.

Little wonder, Saturday's game at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan was more of a repeat of the 1984 Afcon final held at the same venue.
On that occasion Cameroon, with stars like Roger Milla, Joseph-Antoine Bell and Theophile Abega, won 3-1 against a young Super Eagles team led by the late Stephen Keshi.

As if that wasn’t painful enough, another defeat followed for Nigeria at the 1988 Afcon held in Morocco, with the Indomitable Lions sealing a second Nations Cup title at the expense of the West Africans, courtesy of a goal scored from the penalty spot by Emmanuel Kunde.

The next high-profile encounter between the rivals was yet another final, held at the Lagos National Stadium for the Afcon 2000 tournament, co-hosted by Ghana and Nigeria.

Playing on home soil, the Super Eagles had fervent fan support and pressure in equal measure as they sought to avenge the pains of the past.

"There was lot of anxiety in the camp before the final, because we knew Cameroon had many good players and history was on their side," Benedict Akwuegbu, who was a member of the 2000 squad, told BBC Sport Africa.

"They had players like Patrick Mboma, Samuel Eto'o and Rigobert Song, but sadly for us, it went into penalties and we lost again."

The 2000 Afcon final loss on home soil, 4-3 on spot-kicks after a 2-2 draw, effectively sealed Cameroon's fate as Nigeria's nemesis in African football.
Cameroon players - many wearing Nigeria strips after swapping shirts - celebrate winning the 2000 Afcon final against the Super Eagles in Lagos 

Expectedly, and according to the BBC report, that third final victory over their rivals,, earned Cameroon the opportunity to keep the Afcon trophy (then called the Trophy of African Unity) for keeps, and denied Nigeria what would have been their third title.

Any wonder, therefore why revenge, bragging rights and regional rivalry became the talking points on yesterday’s with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs?

That intense packed match was the 25th meeting between Nigeria and Cameroon across all competitions and an eighth Afcon meeting between the two heavyweights.

Coming into the match, Nigeria held a better head-to-head record of 12 wins and eight draws over their rivals, who have admittedly won the much bigger fixtures.

"Cameroon and Nigeria are neighbours so they are the biggest rivals from back in the day," former Cameroon forward Patrick Suffo told BBC World Football.

"But in those hard games, that's where we show our true colours."

Both sides have endured a nervy start to their campaign in Ivory Coast, with the Super Eagles scoring only twice from open play at the tournament, despite boasting an attacking depth which includes African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen.

"The coach (Jose Peseiro) needs a supporting striker to play upfront with Osimhen," says Akwuegbu.

"The goals will come if we play our traditional 4-4-2 formation." And rest, as they say, is now history. Nigeria triumphed in the match with a 2:0 goals. 

Before now, the he last Afcon meeting between Nigeria and Cameroon came at the same stage of the competition in Egypt in 2019.

Former Watford and Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo scored twice as the Super Eagles beat the Indomitable Lions 3-2 to eliminate the defending champions, before Nigeria went on to finish third.

"There is no room for errors, especially when you are playing against a team like Cameroon," added 53-year-old Adepoju.

"We must take our chances because they may not come again." And their chances the Super Eagles took this time to bundle Cameroon out of this edition of the tournament.
And here are what some the fans thought before the match: "It's the biggest fixture in African football. I get scared whenever it's Nigeria against Cameroon at any level. I watched the Afcon 2000 final as a young kid and the memories of that defeat have never left my mind any time we play them. I hope the Eagles win on Saturday." Nigeria fan Lanre Vigo

"I watched the 1984 Afcon final where a young Nigeria side lost to a very strong Cameroon team. The current Nigeria squad is far better than our opponent. We only need to work on our tactical approach to the game and be focused on winning at all cost." Grassroot sport manager Anthony Adeboye

"It's always like a war whenever it's time for Nigeria to play Cameroon. Everyone knows it is an important fixture, where pride and bragging rights are at stake. We can't forget the three Afcon final losses, so we take every game as a revenge mission." Football coach Seun Savage.

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