Injured Odion Ighalo scored a third-minute goal to extend the bronze record of Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations to eighth after a 1-0 win over Tunisia in a third-place battle at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on Wednesday night.
Jamilu Collins left a defender in his stride before crossing, which Tunisia goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia punched off his defender Yassine Meriah for Ighalo to simply tap into an empty net.
It was a near perfect evening for Ighalo, who hoped to cling on to the Golden Boot, until he developed a hamstring injury and was taken of the pitch in the 45th minute and was replaced by Victor Osimen.
After Ighalo’s goal, the Tunisians took control of the game, with Eagles defender Kenneth Omeruo having to make a brilliant intervention in the eighth minute, cutting out Taha Khenissi’s shot from the right after he had been sent through by a delightful ball from skipper Wahbi Khazri.
Ferjani Sassi came inches close after 14 minutes, his low effort from the edge of the box after skilfully evading a tackle from Oghenekaro Etebo went just wide.
Nigeria were playing too deep in their own half and had let the midfield partnership of Sassi and Joris Skhiri take charge of the tempo.
In the second half, Tunisia started from the same place they left in the first half and came close to a goal just two minutes in when Khazri sent substitute Firas Chaouat through, but the striker hit the side netting facing Francis Uzoho one-on-one.
On the other end, Chukwueze came close to doubling Nigeria’s advantage when he picked up the ball at the edge of the box but his curling effort was smothered behind for a corner by Ben Chirifia.
Substitute Samuel Kalu provided some late flashes of brilliance late in the game barely a minute after his introduction with two brilliant free-kicks, both of which were saved by Ben Cherifia.
Nigeria have played in seven third-place matches before Wednesday’s night game and won every of them – beating Tunisia (1978), Cameroon (1992), Mali (2002 and 2004), Senegal (2006) and Algeria (2010). They also finished third another time too — in 1976 when then there was a four-team group to decide the winner.