Nigeria crash out of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) following a 0-1 defeat against Tunisia.
Maduka Okoye’s goalkeeping blunder handed the Carthage Eagles the lead barely two minutes into the second half.
Tunisia stunned Nigeria 1-0 in the round of 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Super Eagles were one of the favorites to win the event, but they were eliTnated early in the second half after Youssef Msakni’s shot from beyond the box.
Nigeria’s problems were exacerbated when Everton winger Alex Iwobi was sent off for a risky tackle on goalscorer Msakni barely five minutes after coming in as a replacement (after a VAR review).
It would be the first time the Super Eagles have failed to move to the AFCON quarterfinals since 1982, whereas Tunisia has reached the quarterfinals in four straight championships.
Both teams went on the attack right away, with Wilfred Ndidi’s overhead kick bouncing just wide and Joe Aribo’s attempt diverted for a corner.
The early flurry died down, and opportunities were few and far between, with Tunisian players flinging themselves to the ground in quest of fouls to prevent the Super Eagles from putting together an offensive move.
Hamza Rafia, the final effort of the first half for the North Africans, curled wide as Tunisia held the score 1-0 at halftime.
Msakni’s poor attempt took a tiny deflection from William Troost-Ekong and goalkeeper Maduka Okoye could only divert the ball into his net for a shocking 1-0 lead three minutes after the restart.
Coach Austin Eguavoen gambled by bringing on Alex Iwobi and Peter Olayinka, but Iwobi was sent off three minutes after going on for dangerous play, his warning turned into an expulsion following a VAR review.
This sparked a response from the West Africans, with Moses Simon’s shot being saved at the back post and Chukwueze Cing to hit the goal after a mazy run by Ola Aina.
s the game progressed, Simon, Ndidi, and Sadiq Umar all dragged attempts wide.
Tunisia’s defense remained steadfast to the very end. In the quarterfinals, Tunisia will Alay Burkina Faso.
AFCON 2021: Surprising Tournament
Apart from being the better team in the group stage, the Nigerian Super Eagles had a perfect record against the Carthage Eagles in their previous five matches, winning three and drawing two.
Nigeria were unable to replicate their first-round form, which saw them become the only team among the 24 to have a perfect record, thanks to a lackluster first half that saw just one shot on target, from Tunisia.
In a competition full of them, Msakni, who is based in Qatar, put the one-time Cup of Nations winners ahead soon after halftime.
Msakni, who is competing in his sixth Cup of Nations competition, dribbled around the outside of the box before unleashing a curling shot that deflected off goalkeeper Maduka Okoye’s left arm and into the net.
Nigeria was struggling to break past a well-organized Tunisian defense when Iwobi’s yellow card was turned to red following a VAR review halfway through the second half.
Everton winger Alex Iwobi, one of a slew of Premier League players in Cameroon, had just come off the bench when he stomped on Msakni’s ankle.With 15 minutes left, another substitution, Naim Sliti, nearly doubled Tunisia’s advantage when he blasted a shot into the corner of the goal, only to be denied by a brilliant two-hand save from Okoye.
As time ticked away, Nigeria had an opportunity to equalize, but Moses Simon’s free-kick from just beyond the area went over the crossbar.