William Paul Ekong of Nigeria (c) reacts in disappointment after scoring an own goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals Semifinal football match between Algeria and Nigeria at the Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 14 July 2019

Some football stakeholders on Monday rued Sunday’s loss by the Super Eagles to Algeria in Cairo as undeserved, even though they admitted the better team won during the match.

A cross-section of football stakeholders who spoke in separate interviews said Nigeria deserved not to lose the way they did, notwithstanding the match result at the end of the day.

Newsmen reports that the Super Eagles had a heartbreaking 1-2 loss to Algeria in the semi-finals of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Algeria forward Riyad Mahrez curled in a free-kick in stoppage time to give Algeria a 2-1 win over Nigeria in a tense match in the Egyptian capital.

The Algerians had gone ahead when William Troost-Ekong turned a Mahrez cross into his own net five minutes before half-time.

Nigeria equalised midway through the second half with a penalty kick awarded for handball and converted by Odion Ighalo following a lengthy VAR review.

Samson Siasia, an ex-international and a former Super Eagles coach, said the Nigerian side played better in the second half.

“But they failed to take their chances in the final third when they found themselves in the opponents’ vital area.

“I think that’s where it was missing, in the final third! We came out strongly in the second half and reacted to the goal that we conceded, which was good to see.

“But in the end, if you do not dominate in the final third, if you don’t shoot at goal and create opportunities, there is no way you can win.

“From the moment the Eagles restored parity, the team regained composure and started to play in the way we used to see Nigeria play, passing the ball from the back and more of our players inter-changing and getting more of the ball,’’ he said.

Siasia, however, said he would have loved to see a quick transition of play because the Super Eagles’ strength was in their wing-backs.

“When Chukwueze and Henry Onyekwuru had the ball in the middle, the Algerians did not give us the opportunity to play our football. But that’s our strength.

“So, sometimes we should have forced it. We saw it from the Eagles a little bit late in
the second half, ” he said.

The former Super Eagles striker, however, admitted that the Desert Foxes were a better side as their quality showed throughout the game.

“But, take nothing away from this Algerian team, they had a master plan and managed the game very well from start to finish.

“In my opinion of how they played, it was very difficult but it’s just so sad and devastating to see Nigeria conceding in the last seconds because we had the momentum.

“Had the game dragged on to extra time, maybe Nigeria would have taken over. But it’s just sad and I must say
congratulations to Algeria for a job well done,” he said.

Tunde Popoola, a former Secretary-General of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), said the Eagles did their best but were up against an attacking and more creative side.

“No doubt, you really cannot take it away from the Algerians, they deserved the victory and got it.

“This is indeed very similar to the Nigeria/South Africa quarter-finals except that the roles were flipped this time around.

“The Eagles went a goal down in the first half but were a little bit braver in the second half and managed to get the equaliser.

“But at the end of the day, the braver, attacking and more creative team got the deserved result,” he said.

Godwin Bamigboye, FCT Chapter Chairman of Nigeria Football Coaches Association (NFCA), said while the Eagles did not perform too badly, especially in the second half, the Algerians were the hungrier side.

“Kudos to the Eagles and congratulations to Algeria who showed they wanted it more from the start of the game.

“I however enjoyed the way our boys played in the second half. They showed they wanted to play and got the likes of Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi and Oghenekaro Etebo on the ball.

“The Eagles then gradually started to gain confidence in the second half and started to show their qualities, hence they got the goal.

“So, they played very well in the second than the first half. Sometimes it’s a little bit too late and the goal Nigeria conceded late into stoppage time was indeed heart-breaking,” he said.

Bamigboye, however, noted that the players failed to create enough scoring chances, adding that the Algerians were tactically and technically better, more direct and consistent in their approach to the game.

“We didn’t create enough chances because of that in the second half. They tried to play differently after they scored.

“The problem was that Algeria already had the momentum because of their consistency in coming through, creating so many chances and knocking on our door to score on several occasions.

“Also, the gap between our central defenders was poor. They made too many schoolboy errors which a quality side like Algeria will always punish, ” he said.

Newsmen reports that Friday’s final match will see Algeria up against Senegal who earlier in a drama-filled semi-final tie on Sunday beat Tunisia through a bizarre own goal in extra time.

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