Nigeria secured third place in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations after Odion Ighalo's early strike proved to be the difference between themselves and Tunisia, handing the Super Eagles their eighth third-place finish in the tournament.
Ighalo netted his fifth goal of the tournament just three minutes into the match after Ahmed Musa's left wing cross was palmed away by Moez Ben Cherifia, but his save rebounded off Yassine Meriah to hand the Shanghai Shenhua striker the simplest of tap-ins.
Tunisia grew into the match but were wasteful in front of goal, failing to hit the target with any of their shots on target during the first period. Nigeria were handed a huge blow just before the whistle blew for half time, however, with goalscorer Ighalo forced off with a suspected hamstring injury to cut his tournament short.
A first shot on target for the Eagles of Carthage finally came in the 57th minute, as Anice Badri struck an effort from 30 yards which Nigeria 'keeper Francis Uzoho held comfortably.
The Eagles of Carthage pressed for an equaliser in a bid to force a penalty shootout, but a lack of quality in the final third ultimately cost them as Nigeria extended their record of third-place play off victories to eight from eight.
Key Talking Point
A strong side no doubt, but few expected Tunisia to reach this stage of the tournament, given the quality of some of the sides featuring this year. They failed to excite in the first half, seeing as much of the ball as their opponents but failing to test Francis Uzoho in the Nigerian net.
It took 57 minutes for them to have their first effort on target, a whole 15 minutes longer than their entire match against the Super Eagles lasted - after the last third-place play off between these sides ended with Tunisia walking off in protest in the 42nd minute.
An over-reliance on Wahbi Khazri to create chances ultimately cost them, as they had to settle for fourth in this year's competition - a place they've finished on two previous occasions. Meanwhile, a first triumph in this tournament since 2004 continues to evade them.
Starting XI: Ben Cherifia (4); Drager (5), Hnid (5), Meriah (5), Haddadi (6); Chalali (5), Skhiri (6), Sassi (6); Badri (5), Khenissi (4), Khazri (7*)
Substitutes: Chaouat (7), Sliti (5), Bedoui (5)
Star Man - He was wasteful in front of goal, but Wahbi Khazri was the sole creator in an otherwise uninspiring Tunisia performance. In the second half he took the game by the scruff of the neck, desperate to claw his side back into the match.
There is evidence of prior Premier League quality there, with trickery and endeavour evident, but on this occasion the former Sunderland man was left all on his own to carve open the Nigerian defence, and it proved too much.
Wahbi Khazri 👌— Ben Kunga (@Ben_kunga) July 17, 2019
Key Talking Point
Despite having the youngest squad in the competition, the Super Eagles were among the favourites to lift the trophy for this years' edition of the tournament.
A lively opening from the Nigerians saw them grab the opener, and Gernot Rohr's side were comfortable in the opening period, happy to let Tunisia shoot from distance.
Losing Ighalo, who is likely to finish the tournament as top scorer, didn't knock their confidence and they continued to apply themselves admirably all over the pitch - despite both sides clearly running out of steam and struggling to muster any real quality.
It was a tired ending to the match, but extended Nigeria's imperious run of third-place play off wins and ensured they didn't leave Egypt entirely empty handed this year
Starting XI: Uzoho (7); Collins (6), Omeruo (7), Troost-Ekong (7), Aina (7); Ndidi (6), Etebo (6), Musa (5), Iwobi (6), Chukwueze (6); Ighalo (7*)
Substitutes: Simon (5), Osimhen (6)
Star Man - He could only manage 45 minutes after suffering an unfortunate hamstring injury at the tail end of the first half, but nevertheless, Odion Ighalo reaffirmed his importance to Rohr's side with a clinical finish.
It was a mere tap-in for the former Watford man, yet it is his clever thinking in forward areas and killer instinct that mean he could well end up as the tournament's top scorer - barring Adam Ounas, Sadio Mane or Riyad Mahrez scoring two goals or more in Friday's final.
Ighalo has had an amazing tournament.— Barnabas 'Barny' Emordi (@barnyee_) July 17, 2019
Totally deserves the golden boot.
Lionel Ighalo right!?— El_magnifico (@Magni5scent) July 17, 2019
Both sets of players from either side will now take an expected holiday before linking up with their respective club sides ahead of the coming season.