AFCON 2023: Why the Super Eagles of Nigeria are deserving

It has been a crazy and unpredictable 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, but the way Nigeria have emerged as favourites has made for an interesting watch. 

As the likes of Senegal, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Cameroon were all knocked out since the Round of 16 stage, Nigeria emerged as the highest-ranked team left in the tournament with the sense that no other side could stop them. 

Having drawn against Equatorial Guinea in the opening game, the Super Eagles defeated Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau in Group A before defeating Cameroon 2-0 in the Round of 16. They have proved their mettle in the knockout stages with a win over Angola and a 1-1 draw against South Africa in the semi-final which ended in a 4-2 victory on penalties. 

Nigeria’s players have a lot to prove after missing out on 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification and their form leading up to this tournament left them with many doubters to prove wrong. Since then, Stanley Nwabali has become a revelation after replacing Francis Uzoho between the sticks and he eyes a record fifth clean sheet for an AFCON tournament.

In front of the Chippa United goalkeeper, Jose Peseiro has switched to a back-three system which set the tone for their compactness at this tournament. 

Nevertheless, the three-time African champions possess one of the most fearsome attacking departments on the continent and the trio of Victor Osimhen, Moses Simon and Ademola Lookman have provided the pace, movement and directness needed to hurt opponents. 

Despite Osimhen’s lack of goals, his relentless work has made a difference for the team and his one goal with three assists could be more if not for an unlucky record of three disallowed goals so far. If Nigeria were to go all the way on Sunday evening, there is no doubt that the reigning African Player of The Year would have immensely contributed to the cause.

Having improved as every game has gone on thus far, it is pertinent that the Super Eagles utilise this golden chance to win the competition for the first time since 2013. With all of their realistic rivals now knocked out, they must complete the story of their fourth AFCON title with this talented bunch of players. 

Being the team with the most medals in the history of the competition, Nigeria certainly know how to navigate the knockout rounds of the AFCON and they must prove why they deserve to be crowned Champions of Africa this year. 

The need for one last push with maximum focus and unity is not lost on the players who are now on the verge of history. They must defy the host nation in front of their home crowd knowing fully well that Ivory Coast have all the pressure to perform in front of almost 60,000 hopefuls.

AFCON 2023 is definitely Nigeria’s to win, no other team has overcome their challengers with such precision and effectiveness. 

The showpiece final at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium may be Ivory Coast’s party, but the Super Eagles must also make it their coronation. 

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