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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Nigeria fans deserved more and ‘we owe it to you’ – Iwobi

3:34 PM GMT+4 25/01/2022
Nigeria, Tunisia, Alex Iwobi
The Super Eagles midfielder says they will come back stronger after failing to get past the Round of 16 against Tunisia on Sunday

Nigeria stalwart Alex Iwobi has apologised to all the Super Eagles fans after they suffered an exit from the Africa Cup of Nations at the knockout stage in Cameroon.

After a good run in the group stage which saw Nigeria win all three of their matches, the only team to do so at the 33rd edition of the competition, they could not get past the Round of 16 after losing 1-0 to Tunisia at Roumde Adjia Stadium on Sunday.

It was Youssef Msakni who notched the all-important goal in the 47th minute to end the Super Eagles’ fairy tale run in the competition. The 25-year-old Iwobi, who currently features for Everton in the Premier League, was also red-carded seven minutes after coming on by Senegal referee Maguette N'Diaye.

“Moments of joy can quickly turn into pain and anguish. As much as it’s a part of football, we came for more,” Iwobi wrote on his Instagram. “Our fans, who shared these moments with us both in Cameroon and across the world, deserved more.

“The beauty of the game is the next moment of jubilation is never too far around the corner. We will be back to fight for our nation, stronger. We owe it to you, and I owe it to myself.

“Thank you for all the words of support and encouragement - It doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Iwobi’s apology comes just a day after Nigeria legend Jay-Jay Okocha supported the decision by the referee to send off Iwobi. Okocha, who is Iwobi's uncle said the former Arsenal player deserved the red card whether it was intentional or not.

“As a player, we always try to retain possession especially when you've had a bad touch but also the referee dished out yellow first because he realized that it wasn't dangerous play until the VAR called him,” Okocha told SupeSport as quoted by Allnigeriasoccer.

“And when they look at replays, sometimes they tell a different story and when we saw that replay I said it that he's off, whether it was intentional, whatever, he was a bit dangerous on the Tunisian player but that wasn't his intention.

“I mean these referees play to the book. We've had a bad day and when it rains it pours.”

Okocha’s verdict contradicts that of interim coach Augustine Eguavoen, who defended Iwobi by stating his foul was not intentional.

"It's a little bit difficult, I don't like to talk too much about referees because they are the masters but there's nothing wrong if one makes his observations," Eguavoen told reporters.

"Iwobi's red card I don't think was the first foul and it wasn't intentional also but we have to look at the VAR later and see.

"However, first offense I don't think demands a red card, it wasn't dangerous play, and then right in his face, I can see one of the most gentlemen in the team Wilfred Ndidi got smashed right in front of the referee.

"Normally in the game of football when there's a foul and there's an advantageous position you let it run so that's just the only thing I see but again you know the referee is a gentleman and he should be able to control his emotions once the game is on.

"Everywhere is tensed up, it has happened there is nothing we can do about it.”