Tournament favourites Nigeria have been eliminated from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations after losing 1-0 to Tunisia in Garoua on Sunday night.
Youssef Msakni scored the solitary goal for the Carthage Eagles who flew higher than the Super Eagles, the latter having to finish the match with 10 men after Alex Iwobi was red carded for a dangerous tackle.
Nigeria were clear favourites in this tie having won all their group stage matches v=convincingly, but against the North Africans, couldn’t take the fight to the end.
Coming into the match, Tunisia were handed a huge boost with Wahbi Khazri, Dylan Bronn and Issam Jebali, all who had missed the last round of group matches after testing positive for COVID-19 being cleared to play.
They were all started on the bench as they hadn’t trained with the rest of the squad through the last few days.
The opening half was played hands back, with Tunisia defending much and denying Nigeria a chance to make any meaningful attempts at goal. The Tunisians knew the danger that red hot winger Moses Simon posed and killed off his influence, employing a double marking strategy on him.
The only meaningful aim at goal for the Nigerians in the entire half was an acrobatic attempt from Wilfred Ndidi after a corner was half cleared by the Tunisians.
The Carthage Eagles also came close just once when Montassar Talbi saw his close-range effort cleared off the line by Ndidi.
In the second half, Tunisia came all out and they broke the deadlock just two minutes after the restart through Msakni. The skipper dragged a powerful swerving shot into the net. Keeper Okoye Maduka seemed to have been deceived by the swerve of the ball and though he got a hand to it it was too strong to stop.
Nigeria tried to put in a fight and Ndidi once again had a chance at goal when Simon fed the ball to him from distance, but his shot flew over the bar.
The Super Eagles were further dented when they were reduced to 10 men, Alex Iwobi sent off just seven minutes after coming on. He had initially been yellow carded for standing his foot on a Tunisian player’s ankle, but upon consultations with the VAR, the ref upgraded the color of the card from yellow to red.
Handicapped with numbers and limited in spaces, Nigeria couldn’t pose much danger with Okoyo making a flying save to deny Naim Sliti once again with a shot from distance.
Off a counter, Nigeria had a chance to draw level but Umaru Sadiq’s attempt at clipping the ball beyond the keeper from the right went inches wide.
The North Africans managed the rest of the game with ease as they secured revenge over the Nigerians who beat them to bronze by a similar margin at the last Cup of Nations in Egypt on 2019.
Mondher Kebaier’s side will take on Burkina Faso in the quarter finals on Saturday while Nigeria will now switch their attention to the World Cup qualifiers in March where they have been drawn against Ghana.