Nigeria seek redemption against Ivory Coast after AFCON opener stumble

Nigeria seek redemption against Ivory Coast after AFCON opener stumble

In a showdown at the 2023 AFCON, the Super Eagles found themselves held to a 1-1 draw by Equatorial Guinea in a surprising turn of events on Sunday.

Fulham midfielder Alex Iwobi, acknowledging the disappointment, now sees the upcoming clash against Ivory Coast as the golden opportunity to silence critics and demonstrate Nigeria's true potential in the tournament.

Despite being 46 places above Equatorial Guinea in FIFA's global rankings, Nigeria's lacklustre performance in the opener sparked doubts about their ability to progress further. The draw left fans speculating on the team's fate, with concerns of a potential early exit if improvements aren't swiftly implemented.

Iwobi, addressing the media, expressed the team's excitement and determination to bounce back: "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."

Napoli striker Victor Osimhen emerged as a standout player for Nigeria in the opener, showcasing his prowess on the field. However, the team suffered a setback with Alhassan Yusuf's forced exit in the second half. Super Eagles boss Jose Peserio confirmed Yusuf's absence from the Ivory Coast clash but held out hope for his return against Guinea-Bissau in the final group stage encounter.

Ivory Coast, buoyed by a convincing 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau, enter the contest with confidence. Head coach Jean-Louis Gasset recognizes the offensive threat posed by Nigeria, particularly by the formidable Osimhen, who was named CAF African Footballer of the Year. Gasset emphasized the importance of raising their game to secure a victory, acknowledging that winning the first game is crucial for momentum.

Thursday's AFCON fixtures promise more excitement. Equatorial Guinea face Guinea-Bissau at 16:00, while the spotlight game of the day unfolds at 19:00 as Ivory Coast and Nigeria battle for redemption. The day concludes with a fierce encounter between Egypt and Ghana at 22:00, adding another layer of intensity to this captivating tournament.

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