Nigeria vs Cameroon

Cameroon captured their third African Cup of Nations title after a wildly entertaining penalty shootout victory over home nation Nigeria. Samuel Eto’o and Patrick M’Boma fired Cameroon into a 2-0 first half lead, before goals from Raphael Chukwu and Jay Jay Okocha either side of half time levelled the scores. After both teams failed to break the tie in a tense extra time period, Rigobert Song scored the decisive penalty in a hotly discussed and controversial penalty shootout.

You can listen to a full length interview with Cameroon legend Patrick M’Bomba where we discuss his thoughts on the game, what it was like to captain his country and what qualities were required to be successful at the AFCON tournament. Subscribe today to the Retro Football Analysis Podcast.

Match Report

Cameroon opened the tournament with a 1-1 draw against Ghana followed by an impressive 3-0 win over Ivory Coast, before a 1-0 defeat to Togo in their final Group A game saw them qualify via tiebreaker from a group where all four teams finished on level points. 

A 2-1 win over Algeria in the Quarterfinals was followed by a resounding 3-0 win over Tunisia in the semifinals, where veteran M’Boma netted twice and his teenage strike partner Eto’o rounded out the scoring.

The strike duo of M’Boma and Eto’o entered this game with 3 goals each in the tournament so far and were key figures for the Indomitable Lions who were captained by Song. Raymond Kalla and Pierre Njanka joined captain Song in the backline of a 3-5-2 for Cameroon, with West Ham United star Marc-Vivien Foe anchoring the midfield.

Nigeria qualified for the knockout stages by finishing three points clear at the top of Group D with wins over Tunisia and Morocco sandwiched either side of a 0-0 draw with Congo. Two goals from Julius Aghahowa fired the Nigerians to a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Senegal, before Tijani Babangida scored twice to see off South Africa in the semifinals.

Despite their goal scoring heroics, neither Aghahowa or Babangida made the starting lineup for this game, with Chukwu and Nwankwo Kanu selected to lead the attack as a pair in a 3-5-2 shape. Sunday Oliseh and Mutiu Adepoju played behind Okocha in a three man central midfield, while Taribo West of A.C. Milan anchored the backline.

Cameroon carved out the first chance of the game in the 5th minute when Pierre Wome took a throw in and found M’Boma racing in behind. Nigeria defender West stepped over to challenge and concede the first corner of the game. Geremi Nijtap took the corner, but his cross was cleared away by a diving header from Adepoju.

Nigeria had their own first sighting of goal in the 7th minute, when Chukwu picked up possession and drove into the penalty area, but no foul was given when he was muscled off the ball by the powerful Kalla.

Cameroon tried an ambitious shot on goal in the 8th minute, when Foe received the ball in the center circle and with no Nigerian player pressing him, looked up and launched a shot on goal from inside his own half that flew over the crossbar.

A confident Indomitable Lions team had clearly adopted a shoot on sight policy, and in the 13th minute M’Boma created space for himself in a wide right position over 30 yards out and launched a shot over the bar.

The ball in behind was shaping up to be Nigeria’s primary method of attack in the early stages and Okocha was released by West. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder was stood up well by Kalla before flashing some skill and chipping over a cross that cleared everyone.

Central defender Kalla showed good 1v1 defensive ability and was a key figure against a Nigerian attack that was abundant in skill and pace in the form of players like Okocha.

Finidi George found Kanu from a throw in on the edge of the penalty area in the 19th minute but no foul was called by referee Mourad Daami when Kanu appeared to be clearly tripped by Salomon Olembe. The Super Eagles were starting to settle into the game and Okocha fired wide after being teed up from 25 yards out.

Cameroon won a wide free kick in the 26th minute when M’Boma produced a lovely touch to beat Furo Iyenemi before being dragged down by the defender who received a yellow card for the foul.

The ability of target man M’Boma to beat defenders, draw fouls and also connect possession with his back to goal under pressure was a dangerous aspect of Cameroon’s play in the final third.

The Indomitable Lions capitalized from the set play when Eto’o opened the scoring from a well worked routine. Eto’o and M’Boma stood together near the penalty spot before splitting, M’Boma heading to the back post to drag defenders while Eto’o cut in front of his man at the near post where he was found by Wome’s free kick. Eto’o took a touch and swept the ball home to silence the home crowd and give Cameroon a 1-0 advantage.

Cameroon doubled their lead in the 31st minute and it came courtesy of quality linkup play between their strike pair. Eto’o received the ball and beat a defender with a nice piece of skill before playing a good ball in behind to find the diagonal run of M’Boma. Cagliari striker M’Boma took a touch and buried his finish between the legs of goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu to double his team’s lead.

The goal showed the dual threat that M’Boma posed to the Nigerian defense. Able to stand back to goal and keep possession, the striker also possessed the pace to penetrate behind should the defense be too aggressive stepping forward.

Nigeria tried to respond immediately and won a shooting range free kick when Okocha was fouled by Wome. Oliseh stepped up to take the free kick and blasted a powerful shot that sailed wide.

Nigeria carved out another chance in the 38th minute when Adepoju received a forward pass from Celestine Babayaro and cut the ball back to the penalty spot where Okocha fired his shot straight into the hands of Boukar Alioum.

Cameroon almost scored a third goal in the 41st minute, with Wome breaking down the left wing before sending over a cross that Iyeneme headed against his own goal post. The rebound fell to Eto’o but his shot was well saved by Shorunmu.

Nigeria seemed to be clinging on for dear life as halftime approached, and M’Boma showed audacious skill again with a clever touch to beat a defender in behind, only to be dispossessed when Shorunmu came well out of his area to block. The ball rebounded to Eto’o who had his shot blocked by a recovering defender with the goalkeeper out of the picture.

Nigeria won a wide free kick when Okocha used the outside of his foot to spin Njanka before being dragged down by the defender. George took the free kick but his cross cleared the danger area before being cleared by the Cameroon defense. 

The dribbling ability of Okocha was a real threat that tested Cameroon throughout the game, and the midfielder was a key figure in the attacking third for the Super Eagles.

Nigeria gave themselves a lifeline after a tough opening period with a goal on the stroke of halftime. Chukwu received a high ball on the edge of the penalty area and exchanged passes with Kanu before taking a touch and firing a low finish into the far corner to bring the score to 2-1 going into the interval.

Bari forward Chukwu showed good awareness with his movement before the goal, stalling his run to stay onside before firing his finish home.

While Cameroon would have been pleased with their lead as the half time whistle blew, Chukwu’s strike gave Nigeria a timely boost and had sparked the home crowd back into life.

The goal would be Chukwu’s last act of the game as he was withdrawn during the intermission by coach Jo Bonfrere and replaced by Aghahowa, the semi final hero who was the leading scorer in the tournament so far for the Super Eagles with 3 goals.

Cameroon started the second half with the same shoot on sight mentality they had displayed throughout the first. Olembe dribbled in from his left wing position before lifting a long range shot over the crossbar.

Nigeria also started the second half in confident fashion and tied the score with a pretty special shot of their own in the 47th minute. A ball in behind was hooked clear by the Cameroon defense, only for Okocha to take it on his chest before lashing a magnificent half-volley past Alioum to tie the scores and fully rouse the home crowd into life.

The Indomitable Lions tried to shake the blow and created a good chance when Eto’o was played in behind down the right channel before sending in a low cross that Shorunmu claimed at the feet of M’Boma after coming off his line quickly.

Cameroon won a corner when a Geremi long throw was headed behind by Adepoju. Geremi took the corner but was denied again by Adepoju who cleared his lines with a diving header. The Lions were responding well to conceding the equalizer and Eto’o was played through on goal in the 52nd minute before smashing a shot against the goal post.

Tempers became frayed when Geremi and Oliseh tussled for a loose ball on the sideline, and both men ended up down and in need of treatment. Oliseh was likely fortunate to receive only a yellow card for lashing out at Geremi while the pair were on the ground. Soon after, Cameroon received a yellow card of their own in the 58th minute when Song went through the back of Kanu with a rough tackle in the center circle.

Cameroon winger Geremi picked out a run into the right channel by Lauren and the midfielder crossed for Eto’o, only for West to intervene and clear the ball behind for a corner. The corner was worked short before Geremi’s cross was hacked clear by the Nigerian defense.

The dynamic runs from midfield into the right channel from Lauren to cause an overload along with right wingback Geremi troubled Nigeria all game, and won Cameroon a wide free kick when the Mallorca midfielder was brought down by Babayaro. Geremi whipped a cross to the back post from the set play where Foe’s header was comfortably saved by Shorunmu.

Lauren was in behind yet again two minutes later, this time winning a free kick after being fouled by Adepoju. Geremi fired over a dangerous cross from the free kick that Kalla headed wide at the back post.

Nigeria manager Bonfrere made a change in the 70th minute, replacing George with Babangida out wide. Cameroon coach Pierre Lechantre responded with a substitution of his own two minutes later, replacing goal scorer Eto’o with Joseph-Desire Job.

Substitute Babangida made his first impact on the game, and showcased his dangerous pace when he won a corner in the 79th minute. Adepoju found Babangida with a long pass to switch the point of attack, and the wingback burst down the right flank before winning the corner under a challenge from Olembe. The ability of Babangida to use his pace to beat defenders and provide shots or crosses added a significant edge to the Nigerian attack.

The resulting corner was driven high towards the penalty spot but was claimed by Alioum who came off his line well to smother the threat.

Cameroon won a free kick in the attacking half when Lauren got forward yet again and drew another foul from Babayaro. The ball was worked to M’Boma 30 yards out in a central position, and the veteran striker made space for himself before firing a shot off target. 

Nigeria carved out a sight of goal in the 84th minute when Kanu received the ball on the edge of the penalty area with his back to goal. The Arsenal striker twisted and turned before trying an unconventional finish that was comfortably saved by Alioum.

The influence of Lauren on the game was growing by the minute and he carried the ball into the Nigerian half before playing it wide left. Wome picked up possession and crossed the ball aiming to find Lauren’s run into the box, Nigeria headed it half clear before Foe followed up fire a shot high over the crossbar.

Minutes later, a Geremi cross produced another half cleared header to the edge of the penalty area, where Olembe volleyed a shot wide.

With the final seconds of regulation time ticking down, Cameroon won an injury time free kick when Song was fouled on the right sideline. Geremi sent a high cross to the back post where M’Boma headed back across goal to Foe who hooked a wayward effort into the air before Nigeria worked it clear. The final whistle blew soon after to send a thoroughly entertaining and hard fought final into extra time.

The additional period began in familiar fashion when Lauren burst forward from midfield and won Cameroon a free kick after a foul from Aghahowa. M’Boma stepped up to take the free kick but hooked his shot wide of the target.

In the 93rd minute, Cameroon coach Lechantre made his second substitution of the game when he replaced defender Kalla with Lucien Mettomo.

Nigeria came forward soon after the substitution when Kanu played wide right to Babangida who made room before firing a shot on goal. Goalkeeper Alioum saved the shot before West headed the rebound behind to concede a corner. Babangida found Adepoju with the corner but the midfielder volleyed his shot well wide from inside the penalty area.

The errant shot would be Adepoju’s last action of the game, as stayed down in need of treatment afterwards before being withdrawn and replaced by Victor Ikpeba.

Nigeria would come forward again in the 99th minute and Babayaro teed up Oliseh before the midfielder lifted his shot from distance high over the crossbar. A minute later, Babangida received the ball out wide and sent in a cross that Ikpeba headed wide.

The home side continued to put on the pressure and received another attacking opportunity courtesy of an error from Song. With seemingly plenty of time to clear, Song dallied on the ball and ended up dribbling behind to concede a corner. Babangida took the corner but Song atoned for his error by heading it clear and sending the game into the extra time interval with the score still tied at 2-2.

Song conceded another corner to open the second additional period, this time as a result of tracking Ikpeba step for step and putting in a good challenge at the byline. The corner was low, allowing Song to end the threat with an acrobatic clearance at the near post.

In what would have been a fitting way to decide the game, Lauren embarked on yet another lung busting run forward and was released on goal, only for Babayaro to save Nigeria with a last ditch challenge.

In the 119th minute, substitute Mettomo burst forward down the right flank and was cynically tripped by Oliseh, who seemed somewhat fortunate to avoid receiving a second yellow card on the play.

Cameroon had one last chance to snatch a winning goal at the death when Job fed M’Boma inside the penalty area, only for the striker to be dispossessed trying to cut inside onto his stronger foot.

There would be no further chances, and the 2000 African Cup of Nations would be decided on what turned out to be a historic penalty shootout.

Each team scored their first two penalties each, before Nigerian forward Kanu had his spot kick saved by a diving Alioum and Geremi blasted home to give Cameroon a 3-2 edge. The next penalty is the kick that would spark hot debate that would continue for years, as Ikpeba smashed his shot off the crossbar and referee Daami ruled it had not crossed the goal line despite TV replays suggesting otherwise.

Foe then missed to keep the score at 3-2 going into the last round of kicks where Oliseh sent Alioum the wrong way to bring the score level to 3-3. Cameroon captain Song stepped up to take the final kick with the championship on the line and side footed his shot into the top corner to win the trophy for the Indomitable Lions.


This result ended a 12 year wait for Cameroon to win their third title and was the dawn of a run of success for the national team. Later in the year, Cameroon won their first Olympic gold medal in Sydney. Eto’o was among the scorers during a 2-2 draw in the final before Cameroon triumphed on penalties again over a Spain team that included future legends Xavi and Carles Puyol. Two years later, Cameroon would defend the African Cup of Nations successfully with yet another penalty shootout triumph, this time over Senegal after a scoreless draw in the final.

Nigeria were heartbroken by the manner of this defeat and that showed through during an emotional ceremony that saw Liseh presented with the runners up trophy.

Two years later, the Super Eagles rebounded to perform strongly again, only to bow out at the semi-final stage of the 2002 African Cup of Nations courtesy of a 2-1 extra time defeat at the hands of Senegal.

Data Analysis

Value of Chances

xG Timeline:

There are a number of interesting things about the time, the first of which being that all four goals occurred during the opening 46 minutes of play which, in terms of overall attack play, was arguably the most sparce period of efforts on goal during the match (Nigeria 5 shots and Cameroon 7 shots). While both teams were neck and neck for long periods of the 1st half, we can see that Cameroon’s attack play was more consistent than their opponents, but also carried more of a threat with almost a full expected goal separating the sides until extra time.  Nigeria would go almost 30 minutes in the 2nd half without registering an attack, but would come back in extra time to record a significant cluster of attacks. When examining this further we can see from the smaller upticks that many of these were speculative efforts and carried little to no threat.

Chance Quality:

We can see from the spikes in the graph that both sides registered attacks that carried decent chance creation value (the longer the peaks the higher the probability), however when we analyze what Opta defines as a Big Chance (A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score) we see that only 1 was created in the match and it fell to Samuel Eto’o who duly headed in Cameroon’s opening goal.

When examining quality we also have to take into account the amount of efforts on goal vs on target. We can see that Nigeria have had more shots on target from a fewer number of efforts, but in addition to this we also see they had a lower overall xG value despite their higher amount of shots testing the keeper. Simply put Nigeria had more success shooting from distance, therefore shots with lower probability of scoring were being saved, however we will see later in the shot graphs how this helps us understand which side carried more threat in the match.

Type of Chances Created

Nigeria would create 10 of their 14 shots on goal, and when we examine the key pass locations we can see there is a decent spread of creativity across the field. Babayaro would create 3 efforts from service on the left, where as 2nd half sub Babangida would create 3 chances of his own from the right. This highlights not only the variety of attacks the Nigerians were able to create, but also the prowess of the individuals conducting the creation. When we examine the types of key passes in the match we see that the highest number of attacks came from Switches of Play, which comes in the form of a horizontal cross/pass to allow the Oliseh and Okocha to shoot from distance (4 in total), and a traditional cross into the box for Kanu, Chukwu or Ikpeba to attack (3 in total).

Cameroon would also create 10 shots in the match, from an increased 18 shots on goal, however they would heavily favor the right hand side of the field with Geremi generating 5 key passes from wide areas. The cross into the box was Cameroon’s preferred movement to generate attacks, with 4 in total turning into shots on goal.

When we examine the patterns of play that would lead to shots on goal we see that both sides favored a build up play approach (23 shots in total during the match), with only 1 counter attack shot being registered in the match from either side. This likely speaks to a culture within African football to maintain possession, largely based on the temperatures and the requirement to preserve energy. When we break down the build up play attacks it tells us more about the performance of both sides, with Nigeria seeing 7 of their 11 build up chances hit the target, where as Cameroon were only able to test the keeper with 2 of their 12 build play chances.

Interestingly when we look at how each team faired on set pieces Cameroon would come out on top, with 2 of their 4 chances hitting the target (1 of which resulting in an Eto’o goal) with Nigeria failing to turn any of their 2 efforts into a chance on target. Its these fine margins that allowed Cameroon to maintain a foothold in a match where their opposition perhaps got the better of them during open play.

Where Chances are Created

In this section it allows us to consider a number of factors when evaluating attacking performance, the first well look at here is each teams numbers inside the box, specifically the central portion. We call this area the golden zone, such is the probability of a goal being scored inside this location, therefore when we boil down the game into performance within this area we see each side has recorded 4 shots with 2 on target. The two efforts each side recorded on target would equate to 1 goal and forcing the opposition keeper into a save a piece.

Out with the central portion we see that Cameroon would score their 2nd of the match inside the left portion of the 18 yard box, where as Nigeria could only record to shots on target. The equalizing factor for Nigeria would come in chances outside the box, with 3 efforts hitting the target to Cameroon’s zero, but more importantly it would be Jay Jay Okocha’s rasping effort from distance that would keep the Super Eagles in the match at 2-2.

So if there was little to separate the sides in attacking output lets delve deeper into the xG (chance creation value), and lets look specifically at those shots on target. So we’ve established that Nigeria would have 7 shots on target to Cameroon’s 4, however when we look at the value of these attacks (the probability of them turning into a goal) we see a very different story. Nigeria’s 7 shots on target are valued at 0.68 xG, so in theory the sum total of these efforts gave them a 68% chance of scoring. In comparison Cameroon’s 4 shots are valued at 0.78 xG, giving them a sum total of 78% chance of scoring. This therefore shows that while Cameroon had less efforts they carried a higher threat from their chances.

Overall the margins in this match were extremely fine, with both sides giving as good as they had, but while finals this close always threaten to disappoint a 4 goal game and a penalty shootout thriller secures this game as one of the best matches we’ve covered on the site.

Who Created Chances

Jay Jay Okocha would finish as Nigeria’s best statistical attacker, taking part in 3 attacks with 2 of those hitting the target, and 1 converting into a goal. While his personal xG for the match was 0.28, what he’ll be remembered for most is his wonderful strike from distance that would sail into the top corner. A truly remarkable goal.

Kanu would finish as Nigeria’s best statistical creator with only 2 key passes, however both would end up creating a shot on target, one of which was to lay on Raphael Chukwu for the opening goal.

Samuel Eto’o was Cameroon’s best statistical attacker, recording 5 shots on goal with an xG of 0.85 (54% of this teams overall xG value). While Eto’o was a constant threat throughout the match with his pace and aerial ability, 2 of his 5 efforts hit the target, with the first creating the opening goal of the game from a fine header.

Geremi was by far Cameroon’s best statistical creator in the game, with 5 key passes in total. He was a constant presence on the right wing, and would offer an array of crossing opportunities for M’Boma and Eto’o to attack.


26’ CAM Samuel Eto’o (Pierre Wome) 1-0

31’ CAM Patrick M’Boma (Samuel Eto’o) 2-0

45+1’ NIG Raphael Chukwu (Nwankwo Kanu) 2-1 

47’ NIG Jay-Jay Okocha 2-2


NIG Jay-Jay Okocha (scored) 0-1

CAM Patrick M’Boma (scored) 1-1

NIG Godwin Okpara (scored) 1-2

CAM Pierre Wome (scored) 2-2

NIG Nwankwo Kanu (saved) 2-2

CAM Geremi Nijtap (scored) 3-2

NIG Victor Ikpeba (missed) 3-2

CAM Marc-Vivien Foe (missed) 3-2

NIG Sunday Oliseh (scored) 3-3

CAM Rigobert Song (scored) 4-3


#12 CM Lauren (Cameroon) – Dynamic performance from the central midfielder, making constant runs forward to cause overloads in the attack for his team. Also connected passes and showed defensive ability in a fantastic all round performance.



3:  CM Lauren – Man of the Match.

2:  CF Samuel Eto’o – Quality performance from the 18-year old prodigy who opened the scoring for Cameroon before assisting M’Boma on the second goal. 

1:  CF Patrick M’Boma – The veteran forward led the line for Cameroon well, scoring the second goal while also showing the ability to make runs in behind consistently and link play with back to goal.


3:  CM Jay-Jay Okocha – The fulcrum of Nigeria’s team going forward showed ability in tight spaces, dangerous movement and tied the scores with a wonder goal just after halftime.

2:  CF Nwankwo Kanu – The lanky front man used his size well and also showed a soft touch and quality passing ability in the final third.

1:  RM Tijani Babangida – Introduced from the bench, showed elite pace and threatened the Cameroon defense consistently.


CAM:  Alioum, Song, Kalla (Mettomo), Njanka, Olembe, Wome, Foe, Lauren, Geremi, Eto’o (Job), M’Boma.

NIG:  Shorunmu, Iyenemi, West, Okpara, Babayaro, Adepoju (Ikpeba), Oliseh, Okocha, George (Babangida), Chukwu (Aghahowa), Kanu.

About the Author

Picture of Stewart Flaherty

Stewart Flaherty

Stewart is a native of Middlesbrough, England, and is a graduate of Loughborough University with a master's degree in sport psychology. Stewart has an extensive background in football, working with a variety of NCAA college soccer programs, as well as working with several leading youth clubs in the USA. Stewart is currently serving as Technical Director within a men's professional soccer club.

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