Odion Jude Ighalo of Nigeria celebrates goal with teammates during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals, 3rd and 4th place match between Tunisia and Nigeria at Al Salam Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 17 July 2019 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Wednesday Jul 17, 2019. 23:10
Nigeria ended their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations campaign with bronze medals after defeating Tunisia 1-0 in the third-place playoff in Cairo on Wednesday evening.
Odion Ighalo scored the only goal of the game early on, securing the Super Eagles their eighth third-place finish in Nations Cup history.
Nigeria got off to a great start, claiming the lead in just the third minute. Left-back Jamilu Collins provided a low cross which goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifa could only knock into the legs of defender Yassine Meriah – the loose ball fell kindly for Odion Ighalo, who poked it home from close range for his fifth goal of the tournament.
The Chinese-based striker is two goals clear of nearest chasers Riyad Mahrez, Adam Ounas and Sadio Mane (as well as Cedric Bakambu, who is no longer active in the tournament) and looks set to win the Golden Boot for top scorer.
Tunisia responded well to going behind and created some half-chances for the likes of Wahbi Khazri and Anice Badri, though Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzoho remained relatively untested throughout the first half, which ended 1-0 in favour of the West Africans.
Both teams suffered injury blows just before the break, with the Carthage Eagles seeing winger Yassine Khenissi replaced by Firas Chaouat, while Nigeria’s Ighalo pulled a hamstring on the stroke of half time and was replaced by Victor Osimhen at the start of the second stanza.
The Super Eagles nearly doubled their lead 18 minutes after the restart, with Samuel Chukwueze sending a curling effort on goal from long range, but Ben Cherifa redeemed himself somewhat with an excellent finger-tip save.
Tunisia came on strong in the final quarter of the match, but they were unable to create any clear chances with which to test Uzoho, leaving Nigeria to claim a 1-0 win and the consolation prize of third place at the AFCON.
The tournament will wrap up on Friday night with the final between Senegal and Algeria from the Cairo International Stadium.
Nigeria (1) 1 (Ighalo 3’)
Tunisia: Cherifa, Drager, Haddadi, Meriah, Hnid (Bedoui 67’), Skhiri, Sassi, Chaalali, Khenissi (Chaouat 44’), Badri (Sliti 58’), Khazri
Nigeria: Uzoho, Aina, Omeruo, Troost-Ekong, Collins, Ndidi, Etebo, Musa (Simon 75’), Iwobi, Chukwueze (Kalu 90’), Ighalo (Osimhen 46’)