The beat goes on, by Patrick Omorodion

 Anybody who loved Pop music back in the day could remember the American group The Whispers.

They had this popular track, ‘The beat goes on’, which made young people dance like there won’t be tomorrow.

Some line of the song goes this way, “Do you ever wonder, that to win, somebody’s got to lose, .. And the beat goes on Still moving strong on and on. The beat goes on, the beat goes on.”

This song played on my lips last Friday after the Super Eagles perked the Palancras Negras of Angola 1-0 to land in the semi-finals of the 2023 African Nations Cup, AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire.

The beat is really going on for the Super Eagles written off after they crashed out of the last edition of the same competition hosted by Cameroon at the round of 16 stage.

Nigerian fans had their hopes shattered after the Super Eagles raised it so high after posting a 100 percent performance at the group stage.

With Austin Eguavoen as caretaker manager, Nigerians began to think that sacked manager, Gernot Rohr was the problem and a Messiah has been found. How wrong they were.

The team’s rating further sunk after the AFCON disaster in Cameroon even with the hiring of a new coach in Jose Peseiro. He flunked match upon match, including friendly matches.

Despite qualifying for the 2023 AFCON with Victor Osimhen emerging top scorer with 10 goals, Nigerians were sad because of the 1-0 dent inflicted on the team by Guinea-Bissau in the process. 

Their lackluster performance in the two 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Lesotho and Zimbabwe was the last straw that turned off the pessimists completely.

When the draws for the AFCON was eventually done, the pessimists doubted the team’s ability to qualify from the group which had host, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and their nemesis, Guinea-Bissau.

In their opening group game against Equatorial Guinea, they conceded a goal before Victor Osimhen headed in the equaliser to earn the Jose Peseiro lads their first point of the competition.

The second game against host, Cote d’Ivoire was considered a very difficult task and the doubting Thomases gave it to the Elephants even before the start. The end result, a 1-0 victory for the Super Eagles was however, a surprise to them.

When the Eagles were pitched against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in the round of 16, the argument was again brought to the fore, that the Osimhen propelled side may just kiss the competition goodbye.

The anxiety among Nigerians was palpable. 

Even when the Eagles led by a goal, fans, the ones who still had some hope, had their hearts in their mouth and prayed that the team should score what they termed ‘security’ goal to make victory doubly sure, in case the Cameroonians pulled one back.

The pessimists were however, relaxed waiting for the equaliser to confirm their “I told you so” boast.

Again, the Super Eagles won and qualified for the quarter-finals, against a rejuvenated Angolan side that were motivated with various promises by their home government and individuals alike.

The injury sustained by the goalkeeper, Stanley Nwabali was another concern for fans. They feared that if Nwabali was not fit enough to return for the Angola tie, then the dream of making it to the semi finals may not be realised with the unpredictability of Francis Uzoho.

There was a flicker of hope for the optimists when it was announced that Nwabali was fit for the encounter. The same couldn’t be said of those, who because of their poor rating of the Portuguese coach, Peseiro, still believed that Angola could carry the day.

Surprisingly, as was the case in other encounters when one player raised his game, Moses Simon, a player that could have been a very good 100m sprinter, outpaced an Angolan defender and cleverly pulled a cross to the Atalanta of Italy forward, Ademola Lookman who fired a blinder for the lone goal that eventually sealed victory for the 16th AFCON semi final match for the Super Eagles.

Angola’s Portuguese coach Pedro Goncalves was full of praises for the Nigerians who he described as a powerful team.

“We like to dream, but you also need to be realistic. The reality is that we were up against a very powerful side with players who play at the very highest level,” he said.

The Super Eagles are happy to have reached the semi final because not many gave them any chance, especially after their unimpressive  draws in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. They have said they are taking it one game at a time.

And like the Whispers sang, the beat goes on. 

They seem to be adopting different strategies for each game, depending on the pattern of play their opponents confront them with.

At the time this piece was being written yesterday, they were definitely awaiting the second quarter-finals game between South Africa and Cape Verde, as the winner will be their next hurdle for an attempt for a fourth AFCON title.

If they succeed to conquer either South Africa or Cape Verde in Wednesday’s semi-finals, then the Whispers song, The Beat Goes On, will be on their lips for the final match on Sunday against any team that comes up.

So for the Super Eagles, the beat goes on and they are “still moving strong on and on”.


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