Nigeria got back into tournament reckoning when they beat Mozambique 3-0 in Lubango on Wednesday evening. The Super Eagles showed why they were billed as one of the tournament favourites triumphing over the Mambas with a brace from Osaze Odemwingie with Obafemi Martins adding a third.
Nigeria knew they needed only a draw to go into the quarter-finals but they came out firing on all cylinders to consign the Mambas to their consecutive defeat in the tournament. Odemwingies’s brace along with Martins late goal means that the Eagles will now face the yet to be decided winner of Group D in the quarter finals next week.
The Nigerians played their best game of the tournament so far distributing the ball more confidently than they had done in the previous matches and defending better than their opponents.
The World Cup-bound west Africans began the match confidently and in no time Chinedu Obasi had gone into the Mozambican defence splitting it with a pass down the left but was unfortunate that none of his team mates could lash on to the pass. Minutes later he shot at goal getting a good palmed save from goalkeeper Kapango.
It was a busy evening for Kapango who would be called into action minutes later when he saved a close header from Obasi and another shot from down the right flank by Odemwingie.
His opposite number Vincent Enyeama was soon called into action to save a free kick played by Martinho Paito from about thirty metres out. His quick throw set off Odemwingie on a counter attack but his long pass was grabbed by Kapango before Obasi could pounce.
Paito then tested Enyeama again with a long range shot which shook the Nigerian keeper but was parried out into play again. Yakubu Ayegbeni wasted an opportunity to put Nigeria in front on 38 minutes in a one-on-one with the keeper but fumbled his shot.
The increasingly confident Mambas kept trying long range shots that could have punished the Nigerians but they were kept at bay by Enyeama’s reflex saves.
Nigeria were able to breathe an air of relief when Odemwingie’s shot from twenty yards sailed low past Kapango to give the Eagles a lead on 45 minutes. It was good reward for the striker who had been trying severally to beat the Mozambican keeper from long range.
Odemwingie scored Nigeria’s second goal in the 47th minute just after second half off a run from Yakubu. The Nigerians seemed to have found their form and began to play with more adventurousness up front while keeping the Mambas off in midfield.
Enyeama denied Mozambique an inroad back into the game in the 69th minute when he saved a header off Dario Monteiro after a brief moment of possession by the Mambas.
Substitute Martins killed off the game with the Super Eagles’ third goal in the 85th minute off a rebound after Kapango had palmed Mikel’s shot in to his path.
It was Nigeria all the way as another substitute Obinna Nsofor had an opportunity to increase the tally after a one-two pass with Martins but his blinder was well saved by Kapango whose evening continued to be busy till the end.
The Super Eagles will look forward to their next game against their quarter finals opponents with more confidence derived from this game where they held the bulk of possession and could have done better than the eventual score line.