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Last Updated: Monday, 4 February 2008, 08:18 GMT
Shame in defeat for Nigeria
By Andrew Walker
BBC News, Abuja

"Penalty!" someone screamed and the crowd went wild.

This was the start everyone in Abuja's Ibiza Garden wanted. Yakubu stroked in the ball from the spot. A first goal handed to the Super Eagles on a plate.

Gloomy fan
The defeat is hard to bear for Nigerians
Guys leapt up and threw themselves into a Makossa dance, bending themselves double and flailing their hands about.

A fountain of beer sprayed over the crowd.

It was a relief from the tension of the scrappy, slow start.

"We'll beat the Black Stars into the white stars tonight!" one man said as he slumped into his seat and wrapped a hand around a big green bottle of Star beer.

But 30-year-old Ike wasn't so sure.

"Actually I fear for Nigeria, Ghana has got some good firepower. Last friendly they beat us like babies, but you have to be patriotic, so Nigeria are going to win I think."

High expectations

Most people seem to think Nigerian football is in a mess.

Before the tournament, expectations of the Super Eagles were super-charged. Their chances of getting to the final were rated high.

I'm happy because Black Stars have won and people will keep buying my t-shirts
Ghanaian trader Grace

Then came a shuddering defeat in their opening game against Ivory Coast, and a shameful draw against Mali.

Fans were roused again by the drubbing the Nigerians handed out to the Benin side midweek.

But 20 minutes after kick-off, fists were pumping in frustration as Nigeria lost possession too easily for the crowd's liking.

A Michael Essien shot from outside the area silenced everyone, even though it sailed well wide.

Optimism
Hopes were high after Nigeria went ahead
Minutes later Yakubu seemed to be through on goal, and everyone leaped to their feet, but then the hands were thrown down again in frustration as he limply passed it to the Ghanaian keeper.

"That na be foul!" appealed one man to the TV screen.

Minutes later he got his wish. Yakubu was pulled down in the area.

Short celebration

The party lasted all of 10 minutes. Stony-faced they watched Michael Essien rise to meet a header and equalise on the stroke of half time.

Frustration
Nigeria let slip their lead and frustrations grew for fans
"We're playing the referee," said Nonso Omwuamibe at half time. "Most times when Nigeria is playing and it's a northern African referee we can't win."

The second half seemed to be all Ghana, despite captain John Mensah's sending off.

People's attention stated to turn to picking over the bones already. "Midfield dey shun dem!" complained one fan to his friend, "Make am get up and support the strikers!"

"Attack-o!" screamed another.

Recrimination

Nigerian players were falling all over the place. Mikel Obi was holding his eye at one point. Tackle came after clattering tackle, and despair began to settle in.

Even before Ghana scored the winner, one man dropped to his knees to plead with the TV screen.

When the scrappy goal went in, Some fans had just about had enough. Several stood up and left in disgust.

They missed one of the most thrilling endings in the competition so far.

Outside several fights broke out between guys pumped up with booze.

"They played rubbish in the last half," Chinedu Ezema said "11 against 10, we're supposed to win. I'm very disappointed."



SEE ALSO
Ghanaian fans celebrate victory
04 Feb 08 |  Africa
Ghana 2008: Nations Cup diary
01 Feb 08 |  Africa
Shooting for success in Ghana
18 Jan 08 |  Africa
Nations Cup Squad Selector
15 Jan 08 |  Africa Cup of Nations

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