If the Super eagles could roll back the years, the 2000 AFCON hosted by Nigeria and Ghana could have turned the tide for Nigeria in a rivalry that has seen them win the war but lost the battle against the indomitable lions of Cameroon.
Nigeria holds the upper hand in the rivalry while the Indomitable Lions holds the ace with the most important wins that includes three AFCON finals.
The little error in judgement by the referees on the night and of course the availability of the Video Assistant Referee, VAR would have ensured Nigeria enter the new Millennium with one vital win against their top foe on the continent.
The Prince And The Ugly Night
Nigeria returned to the AFCON fold after serving a suspension from the 1998 edition because the country boycotted the 1996 edition in South Africa due to political tensions between the country and the host.
The return coincided with the first co-hosting of the Africa Cup Of Nations, AFCON between Nigeria and Ghana in the year 2000.
Nigeria almost got eliminated in the quarterfinal but survived the scare against Senegal, the hugely talented Nigerian team made it to the final to be played in front of home fans at the national stadium in surulere, Lagos.
Standing in the way of Nigeria’s quest for a third AFCON title was Cameroon, who was eyeing a third title as well.
Two goals from Samuel Eto’o and Patrick Mboma in the 26th and 31st minute respectively for the indomitable lions of Cameroon stunned a packed National Stadium in Lagos.
Raphael Chukwu made it 2-1 On the stroke of half-time before Austin Okocha made it 2-2 in the 47th minutes of the game.
The game went into extra time and penalties. Kanu Nwankwo missed a kick for Nigeria but the big heartbreak was when Victor Ikpeba stepped up to take his kick.
The Prince of Monaco unleashed a fierce shot that bounced off the bar and the line, and he immediately put his hands on the head in dismay.
The referee and his assistant immediately ruled it as a missed kick but television replays show that the ball crossed the line. Yet again a VAR could have changed the outcome of the game.
Cameroon once again had the last laugh as they went on to win 4-3 on penalties, the third time they would beat Nigeria in an AFCON final.