Picture : Tunisia created the big surprise, beating the impressive Nigeria !

Burkina Faso vs Tunisia is first ¼ final fixture as Nigeria and Gabon are eliminated.

Nigeria superstar, Simon Moses wept bitterly as the referee  sounded his whistle to announce the end of their dream for any quarterfinal stage appearance at the 33rd TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2021. He was barely helped to his feet as the overwhelming Nigerian fan base, all draped with their green-and-white national colors could hardly believe their eyes from the terraces of the Roumde Adjia Stadium Sunday night. The Super Eagles had graduated from the first round with their mouthwatering performance of maximum 9 points reaped from three matches and so were already being tipped as main challenger for the trophy. But that was as good as toying with the unpredictable nature of the game of football. Against a side that had barely got to the stage as one of four best third-placed teams, Tunisia with less than 50% of the Nigerian performance quotient, Nigeria bestowed demonstrated early domination until the 47th minute when Youssef Msakni confounded keeper Emile Okoye from 35 metres for the fatal goal. That put the Super Eagles on edge as the Carthage Eagles began plucking their wings through purposeful and better coordinated play. The tactical approach by Nigeria coach, Augustine Eguavon to bring in Alexander Iwobi in substitution of Kelechi Iheanacho spelt doom for his boys. The newcomer stepped on Youssef Msakni with such brutality in the 65th minute that he earned a red card, and so Nigeria played 10 against 11 all the way. The Tunisians could still have raised the curtains had it not been for the full-length dive by Emile Ekoye on 75 minutes. Commendable effort by Simon Moses and peers who soundly put in their very best failed to salvage the aspirations of the team, officials and fan base, let alone the country’s president, Mohamadou Buhari who had encouraged the players earlier in the day by virtual message. At fulltime, the Super Eagles dream got transformed into an illusion as the Carthage Eagles flew to perch in safety ahead of their quarterfinal date with Gabon. Tunisia captain and scorer, Youssef Msakni was voted the most valuable player of the match.

In an earlier game played at the Ngeme Sports Stadium, Limbe, Burkina Faso and  Gabon stretched each other to limits, closing the date in a prolonged penalty shootout. Gabon began the game with outright domination of Burkina Faso until the 13th minute when the referee ruled that Sidney Obissa had been guilty of irregular play  and so pointed at the penalty spot. Captain Bertrand Kaboré sent the keeper the wrong way but his kick sent the ball crashing on the crossbar. He would speed for the ball on 28 minutes, overtaking his marker before slotting it past the keeper, crashing against the woodwork and eventually finding the net. Gabonese misery deepened in the 67th minute when Sidney Obissa got a red card. However their fighting spirit paid off 1 minute into stoppage time of the game when from a corner kick, captain Ecuele Manga headed the ball that crashed against a defender before heading for the net. Thirty minutes of extra playtime kept the scores still at 1-1. In the shootout that surpassed the mandatory five shots per team, Burkina Faso prevailed 7-6 after losing 3 shots as against 4 for Gabon. Burkinabe player Ibrahim Touré emerged the most valuable player as the team named The Stallions galloped into the quarterfinals.

This Monday, Guinea take on Gambia at Kouekong at 5 p.m., and then Cameroon versus Comoros at Olembe at 8 p.m.