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AFCON 2023 Round of 16 Preview: Nigeria vs Cameroon

The second Round of 16 match on Saturday at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations features a clash between two titans of African football, Cameroon and Nigeria. The campaign for the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon began poorly but a dramatic turnaround in their final Group C match against Gambia leaves them in the knockout stages. Nigeria impressed in Group A with victories against hosts Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau but now the expectations begin now that the Super Eagles have restored confidence in their supporters.

Nigeria vs Cameroon- 20:00 GMT

Nigeria

Goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali is doing well after becoming the unlikely first choice for Nigeria but now the real test begins for the Chippa United shot stopper

The Super Eagles of Nigeria are historically unpopular with Nigerian supporters but are slowly inspiring belief that they could make a surprise run in Ivory Coast. Nigeria has a positive recent history against Cameroon at this competition with victories in their last two meetings, a 2004 quarterfinal victory in Tunisia and a victory in the Round of 16 at the 2019 edition in Egypt. Head coach José Peseiro is choosing to focus on a strong defensive foundation with skilled attackers who can use their speed on the counter-attack, a strategy that was deadly against hosts Ivory Coast in Group A play.

An unlikely hero in Ivory Coast is goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali who plays at a relatively modest level for club Chippa United in South Africa but is showing security between the sticks. In front of him is an experienced three-man central defense that includes Semi Ajayi and other decent options like Kenneth Omeruo and Calvin Bassey as well as captain William Troost-Ekong who should be back after being rested against Guinea-Bissau. Ola Aina will operate at the right wingback position and Zaidu Sanusi should return to the left flank where he offers galloping attacking runs.

Frank Onyeka is an enforcer deep in the center of the midfield who will be responsible for adding more defensive protection. Alex Iwobi is the chief creator and the best passer in the team but it is the three-man attack that has the most potential for Nigeria. Victor Osimhen has yet to reach his full potential in Ivory Coast but it is only a matter of time before he finds his stride. Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze have lethal pace on the wings and Ademola Lookman is another deadly option who could get the start over Chukwueze. The Nigerian attack can really accelerate hopes for supporters if it reaches its apex.

Cameroon

Cameroon striker Karl Toko Ekambi is shaking off poor form at his club to become the reliable finisher that supporters of the Indomitable Lions are familiar with

The critics have been silenced for now and now Cameroon has an opportunity to dream of the deep AFCON run that supporters have seen so often. Like their opponents on Saturday, the Indomitable Lions tend to thrive when the odds are against them and head coach Rigobert Song continues to find ways to escape an exit at the last moment. The national team legend acknowledged that he has no excuses at this point and expressed hopes that the victory on the last day of Group C play against The Gambia is an indication of progress.

André Onana has been exiled as the number one goalkeeper for Cameroon, clearing the way for Fabrice Ondoa who is finding his way after struggles finding stability in his club career. It appears that Song is settled on five players in the defensive line with Jean-Charles Castelletto and Christopher Wooh as the aerial presences and Nouhou Tolo the diminutive but fierce tackler. Darlin Yongwa is an attacking presence at the left wing back position while Enzo Tchato is on the right flank out of necessity due to injuries and a lack of good options.

André-Frank Zambo Anguissa is beginning to understand his role in the heart of the Cameroonian midfield where he can focus on efficient passing and winning the ball while his partner, Olivier Ntcham, can take more risks moving forward. The big news for Cameroon is the return of captain and striker Vincent Aboubakar to training but it remains to be seen what his role will be after missing the group stage due to injury. Karl Toko Ekambi will surely have a role up top considering his past record and Georges-Kévin N’Koudou is an explosive player who leads the competition with three assists.

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