The Nigerian super eagles started their AFCON campaign in an underwhelming manner, drawing their first group game to Equatorial Guinea’s National Thunder with a very poor attacking performance. Fans were concerned about the mentality of the team and the capability of coach Jose Peseiro. But since then, the super eagles have won the rest of their group games beating the rest of their group opponents including Cameroon the 2017 winner of the AFCON tournament and a long time rival. Both teams had met in the AFCON final in 1984 with Cameroon coming out on top in that match.
The super eagles struggled with their attack with superstar striker Victor Osimhen scoring just one goal since the tournament started but the team has slowly but steadily built confidence and looks more coordinated in their games. The team seems to have gotten rid of the recurring loss of concentration during games, they have shut out their opponents in their last three games courtesy of a terrific defensive performance from the likes Calvin Bassey, William-Troost Ekong, Ola Aina and the team’s new keeper Stanley Nwabali who has been nothing short of immense during this tournament.
Coach Jose Peseiro seems to have abandoned an attacking style of play for a more rigid and compact style of play. Striker Osimhen hasn’t doubled his tally but his work rate has been incredible especially in the last two games, his power shot led to the winning goal against Guinea Bissau while he also created the first goal against Cameroon after a fantastic performance.
With the elimination of tournament favorites like Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Ghana and the shocking exit of Senegal the defending champions, the AFCON title is now up for grabs. The super eagles’ biggest hurdles will be Ivory Coast who they have beaten once already and Angola “the daunting underdog” who they face in their next game. It been more than a decade since Nigeria’s last AFCON title win and this seems like a good time to bring the trophy home. Fans are eager and the super eagles recent performance gives room for optimism.
So what will it be?
A fourth AFCON title or a tale of what could have been ?
We will definitely find out on February 2nd, 2024 when Nigeria face the Palancas Negras (Black Sable antelopes) at the Stade Félix-Houphouët-Boigny in Cote d’Ivoire.
Content Credit / Ajibola Emmanuel Adebayo
Picture Credit / Vanguard News – https://www.vanguardngr.com/2024/01/afcon-2023-super-eagles-to-play-angola-with-okwaraji-in-mind/