Alex Iwobi aims for Africa Cup of Nations triumph with Nigeria despite challenging start

Alex Iwobi aims for Africa Cup of Nations triumph with Nigeria despite challenging start

Fulham midfielder Alex Iwobi concedes that securing a victory against Ivory Coast on Thursday night is imperative for silencing the critics following Nigeria's underwhelming performance in the Africa Cup of Nations opener.

The Super Eagles could only manage a 1-1 draw against Equatorial Guinea, a side 46 places below them in FIFA's global rankings, and next face a tough test in Group A challengers and AFCON hosts Ivory Coast.

Sunday's stalemate left some speculating whether or not Nigeria, among the tournament favourites, have what it takes to advance in the tournament, with fears they could face an early exit without swift improvement.

Iwobi told Nigerian media: "We're excited. We thought we should have won. We know it's not going to be easy but we'll analyse the team and see what we can do.

"The only way to correct that impression is if we win. As long as you win, all of a sudden you're giving your best. That's the only way to keep the critics quiet.

"I always enjoy playing for the national team. To win (AFCON) would be my biggest dream, so hopefully that is something I can achieve."

Napoli striker Victor Osimhen shone brightest for Nigeria in their opener, closely followed by Alhassan Yusuf, who was forced off in the second half.

Super Eagles boss Jose Peserio told Nigerian media the midfielder would miss the Ivory Coast encounter, but could still return to face Guinea-Bissau for their final group stage encounter.

Ivory Coast enter the contest bolstered by a 2-0 triumph against Guinea-Bissau, and head coach Jean-Louis Gasset is preparing for CAF African footballer of the year Osimhen to cause problems once again.

He told a press conference: "We know the strengths of Nigeria, they have an impressive offensive armada.

"They have the best African player in their squad, but against them, we will have to raise our game, and I know my players will do it because I know you have to win that first game to be released."