With the destiny of each team tied to its performance and mother luck at this stage of the AFCON 2019 tournament, Super Eagles have started perfecting the act of penalty kicks in case the match on Saturday ends in deadlock.
Camp source disclosed to THISDAY moments after the last group stage match on Sunday and knowing fully well that qualification into the next phase is guaranteed inspite the 0-2 loss to Madagascar.
Although media men and fans were locked out of the greater part of the team’s training session, it was gathered that all the players were made to go through the penalty kick session.
It was also learnt that many of the players have been scoring their kicks after initial missing the targets.
“When we started, we were able to achieve 65 percent hit on target three percent against the post and the rest were outright misses but now the percentage has improved to 92, meaning going into shootout in Saturday’s match should be positive to the team if all the selected players are in their right frame of minds towards the kick,” an official of the team disclose yesterday.
The official was unable to ascertain if any of the three goalkeepers could be the option should it be clear that the match will go into shoot out.
“At random, I cannot ascertain whom among the three goalkeepers is our best bet for the match if it goes into shoot outs. All the three have their shares of stopping the kicks with no clear dominance of any of them.
“I do not think there can be a late substitute to accommodate a particular goalkeeper that may be good at stopping the penalty kicks of the encounter if the game is to be decided on shoot out,” the camp source explained further.
Nigeria lost 2-4 on penalties to Cameroon at the National Stadium in Lagos in the final match of 2000 tournament in Lagos in which Nwankwo Kanu lost his kick while Victor Ikpeba was controversially counted as a miss after the ball had crossed the line but the referee misjudged that it was not a legal goal.
Nigeria edged past Zambia in a quarterfinal match in 2010 but had lost to host, Tunisia in 2004 .
The Saturday encounter marks Cameroon’s 84th match, even though the Lions have made two more appearances than Nigeria’s 18th at the Egypt 2019 edition.
Both Nigeria and Cameroon led their respective Egypt 2019 groups until their last matches. While Nigeria surrendered Group B leadership to Madagascar on Sunday, Cameroon on Tuesday also failed to live up to expectations and were held to a goalless draw by low rated Benin Republic thus surrendering Group F leadership to rivals, Ghana.