The Super Eagles camp turned dark following their shocking 2-0 loss to Madagascar to relinquish top spot in Group B of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
It was a defeat that jarred the players that even a speech from the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Amaju Pinnick that urged them to see the loss as a wake-up call, could not lift the mood.
The sombre mood lingered for a few days and there was an intense team meeting that ended with defender Leon Balogun publicly apologizing for his error that led to Madagascar’s first goal.
The Super Eagles were deeply hurt by that defeat and it’s the gash that it left that William Troost-Ekong believes will motivate him and his teammates ahead of the second round clash against Cameroon on Saturday, July 6.
“Everyone was upset about the last game against Madagascar so I think everyone has that extra motivation,” Troost-Ekong said at a press conference on Friday, July 5.
“It’s do or die because we know we have to do everything to stay in the tournament,” Troost-Ekong told reporters on Friday ahead of the last-16 tie.
“It’s going to be a tough game against Cameroon. We faced them in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and they might be out for revenge so we have to be ready for them.”
That loss against Madagascar also dimmed the enthusiasm of Nigerians back home but the Super Eagles have a chance to evoke passion with a win against Cameroon who have given Nigeria their worst AFCON heartbreaks in history.
Nigeria have lost three finals in AFCON history, all to Cameroon with the penalty shoot-out loss on home soil in 2000 forever fresh in memory.
The Super Eagles have won only 13 games against Cameroon in 22 attempts although Nigeria have had the upper hand since that final at the National Stadium in Lagos.
Super Eagles boss Gernot Rohr has a couple of injury concerns in his squad ahead of the game although no major changes are expected in his line-up.
Captain Mikel Obi has been ruled out of the game but he was not expected to start against Cameroon.
Right-back Shehu Abdullahi has returned to training although he won’t be fit enough for the game while we might see German-based left-back Jamilu Collins for the first time in Egypt.
What worries Rohr the most is the inability of his team to create chances but he has the likes of Villarreal star Samuel Chukwueze and Alex Iwobi of Arsenal who can create problems for the opposition.
With just two goals scored in AFCON 2019 just like Nigeria, Cameroon coach Clarence Seedorf is also worried about his side’s lack of firepower heading into the game.
“We must improve in several areas, notably in attack. We must be more intelligent to create more chances. We’ve shown our potential. We haven’t yet conceded a goal, there are positive things going forward,” Seedorf told reporters on Friday.
Cameroonians are aware of what a game against Nigeria means to them and Cameroonian journalists were left worried at a press conference on Friday that Seedorf was too relaxed.
“I was even more relaxed in the Champions League finals I played,” the former Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan midfielder said.