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Nigeria embrace favourites tag to reach Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals

Ademola Lookman’s goal was enough for Nigeria to edge past Angola 1-0, while DR Congo also reached the last four by downing Guinea 3-1

Mark Gleeson
Friday 02 February 2024 22:43 GMT
Ademola Lookman’s goal was enough for Nigeria to reach the semi-finals
Ademola Lookman’s goal was enough for Nigeria to reach the semi-finals (EPA)

Nigeria were the first side to book a semi-final berth at the Africa Cup of Nations after Ademola Lookman’s first-half goal ensured a 1-0 win over Angola in the last eight.

Lookman finished off a flying run down the left by winger Moses Simon, who skipped the challenge of defender Kialonda Gaspar to break free and then teed up his team-mate for his third goal of the tournament.

The 26-year-old’s 41st-minute strike at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium was enough to set up a semi-final meeting on Wednesday against either the Cape Verde Islands or South Africa, who play their quarter-final on Saturday.

Nigeria have now qualified for the semi-final in 13 of their last 15 Cup of Nations appearances and been elevated to the role of favourites at a tournament where almost all the heavyweight contenders have been dumped out.

Angola had their chances, notably hitting the woodwork through substitute Zini in the 59th minute as he was put through by a clever defence-splitting pass, but Nigeria proved the superior side.

The Angolans, who have never been further than the last eight in previous Cup of Nations tournaments, came close to the lead inside four minutes. A corner was flicked on at the near post and Mabululu saw his shot from two yards brilliantly saved by Nigeria goalkeeper Stanley Nwabili.

Victor Osimhen had Nigeria’s first real opportunity midway through the first half but his header was too close to Angola keeper Antonio Dominique.

Lookman’s goal proved decisive for Nigeria against Angola (AP)

Nigeria had better chances in the second half with Zaidu Sanusi and Alex Iwobi missing with their shots and Simon cutting inside again to set up a chance but having his effort blocked.

It was a frustrating night for African Footballer of the Year Osimhen who headed home a 75th-minute freekick but it was disallowed after a VAR check.

Five minutes later he was put through by Lookman but delayed his effort and got dispossessed by the Angolan defence.

Later on Friday, also in Abidjan, the Democratic Republic of Congo came from a goal behind to beat Guinea 3-1 in the second quarter-final.

Chancel Mbemba, Yoane Wissa and Arthur Masuaku scored the goals as the Congolese recovered from conceding an early penalty to secure victory and a semi-final berth for the first time since 2015.

Mbemba had given away a penalty when he shoved Mohamed Bayo in the box to allow the Guinea striker to score after 20 minutes but the Congolese captain made up for his error seven minutes later with an excellent left-footed finish.

DR Congo then had a penalty of their own in the 65th minute which Wissa tucked away and Masuaku completed the victory by scoring directly from a free kick near the touchline eight minutes from time – the audacious set-piece swung into the near post catching the goalkeeper out of position.


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