Thirty eight years ago precisely 26th September 1984 Tunisia and Nigeria met at Stade El Menzah in Tunis. That match ended 5-0 in favour of a very happy Carthage Eagles of Tunisia.
Luckily for the Eagles of Nigeria it was an international friendly, but did I hear you say a match is a match and triggers the same reaction of sadness and joy and of national pride and bragging right?
You are right beside it often goes into the record books and remains a reference point every time and any time in future.
Nigeria and Tunisia have met at all categories, world cup qualifiers, Nations cup clash, friendly etc a record 20 times. Tunisia won six lost six to Nigeria and drew eight. Interestingly the highest score line was that September 26th friendly encounter.
The next close to it was a Nations cup clash in Lagos in 2000 which ended 4-2 in Favour of Nigeria and in which Nigeria’s midfield maestro Jay Jay Okocha currently an analyst in the ongoing Nations Cup edition in Cameroon, and compatriot Victor Ikpeba dubbed the Prince of Monaco shared the cake scoring a brace each.
Although the Tunisians were the first to ‘call the police’ like they say by opening scoring as early as 7th minute of the match and grabbing a second in the 16th minute, through Sami Trabelsi and Adel Sellimi respectively when the Eagles began the harvest of goals there was no stopping.
Come January 23, 2022 in some kind of twist of fate, the two Eagles will again clash in Cameroon in the knockout stage of the 33rd edition of the Nations Cup.
Recall that the 2000 clash in Lagos equally took place on the 23rd of January. Will history repeat itself?
The Tunisian on Thursday tried all they could to avoid the Eagles but could not subdue rampaging Gambia who posted an excellent run to scuttle Carthage Eagles desire to avoid Super Eagles.
Unlike their Nigerian counterparts who made a clean sweep of the group stage the Carthage Eagles struggled along the line but happy to avoid crashing out in the first round.
The January 23 clash will be full of fireworks and will be battle of Eagles quite alright but different things in their minds. While the Carthage Eagles will dream of a repeat the 1984 encounter, the Super Eagles will be hoping to replicate the January 2000 encounter.
But I tell you the boys on both side will not be smiling, an indication that every arsenal in the armory will be deployed by both sides to avoid a slip .
The boys have technically be separated from the men and the pretenders have given way to contenders. Here there is no margin of error, if you slip or sleep, you go, no second chance!