AFCON 2023:Nigeria must do well to not underestimate Angola

AFCON 2023 has so far been a tournament full of upsets and overperforming minnows, the measure of the shock results is evidenced by the fact that none of the AFCON 2021 Quarterfinalists are at the same stage in this edition.

Meanwhile, Nigeria are the highest-ranked side remaining in the competition which automatically makes them the favourites to win it come February 11. Yet they have a lot left to do starting from the Last Eight clash against the tricky Angola. 

The Black Sable Antelopes are firm underdogs but they are well capable of causing an upset against the Super Eagles. Nigeria and Angola have met ten times in the past with the Super Eagles winning three, losing two and drawing five.

Meanwhile, this is the first-ever meeting between these sides at AFCON although three of the last four senior encounters all ended in a draw with Nigeria’s last win over Angola coming in 1989 during the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. That fateful fixture at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, was the day Samuel Okwaraji slumped on the pitch in the 77th minute and died of congestive heart failure.

This latest encounter is set to be exciting with Nigeria gunning for a fourth AFCON victory while Angola cannot be underestimated. Both teams are undoubtedly eager to secure a spot in the semi-finals with the Palancas Negras focused on staging another upset.

Their danger men include; Gelson Dala who grabbed a brace each against Mauritania and Namibia in Round 16, and Cristovao ‘Mabululu’ Paciencia who has scored three times so far in the tournament.

Nigeria must be cautious of Angola’s counter-attacking threat while exploiting the vulnerabilities of a backline that has conceded four goals in as many games. It is imperative that the Super Eagles execute an aggressive yet composed game plan, and utilise the pace of Ademola Lookman, Victor Osimhen and Moses Simon.

Jose Peseiro’s men must be focused, adaptable and committed to their game plan while also capitalizing on set pieces could prove vital. 

Nigeria have the pedigree of reaching three of the last four AFCON semifinals while Angola are just in their third quarter-final. Nevertheless, it would be hugely devastating to look down on Angola as there are essentially no underdogs or favourites at this AFCON.

In order to prevent an upset and fulfil the growing expectations on them, Nigeria must try to score first to attain a form of control and keep the Angolans at bay. Any result that requires extra time and penalties would swing the tie in favour of Angola.

When all is said and done, it is time for Nigeria to step up among the unlikeliest of quarterfinalists and prove why they deserve to be crowned Champions of Africa. 

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