Nigeria’s Super Eagles concluded their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign on an excellent note after defeating Sao Tome and Principe 6-0 in Uyo on Sunday evening.
Victor Osimhen netted a hat-trick while Ademola Lookman, Taiwo Awoniyi, and Samuel Chukwueze added the other goals as Jose Peseiro’s men made it five wins in six qualifying games.
With the win, the Super Eagles have 15 points and finish top of Group A regardless of the outcome of Monday’s matchup between Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone.
Nigeria’s 6-0 victory over Sao Tome and Principe is the largest winning margin of any team on matchday six of this qualifying series, mirrored slightly by Mali’s commanding 4-0 triumph over South Sudan.
With 22 goals scored, the Super Eagles outscored all the other 45 teams that participated in this round, a testament to their excellent attacking options. The next best teams, Mali, Zambia, and Senegal, managed only 15 goals, 12 goals, and 12 goals, respectively.
Napoli’s Victor Osimhen shouldered much of Nigeria’s goalscoring burden as he scored ten goals in only six games – nearly half of his side’s total haul. No other player on the continent netted more than five.
It is also the first time in history that a player has scored ten goals in a single qualifying campaign
Osimhen’s latest hat-trick takes him to 20 international goals in only 26 appearances, making him the fourth most prolific goalscorer in Nigeria’s rich footballing history. The 24-year-old striker is only three goals shy of eclipsing the records set by Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Segun Odegbami.
Rashidi Yekini’s 37-goal mark may, however, take some time before anyone, including even Osimhen, would get close to it.
Interestingly, while Nigeria’s attack has made all the headlines, the defence has also not been found wanting, conceding only four goals during that time. Only six other nations – of the teams who completed a six-game campaign – shipped fewer goals.
If Nigeria can find the right balance between the attack and defence at the Africa Cup of Nations, the Super Eagles could reach the latter stages of the competition.
To win their fourth continental crown in Ivory Coast in January, Nigeria will need to overcome co-favourites and former winners Egypt, Tunisia, Ghana, South Africa, and reigning champions Senegal, who have all qualified for the tournament.
The 2023 AFCON promises to be one of the most exciting yet, as 22 of the continent’s best teams have booked their qualifying spots.
Cameroon, Namibia, and Burundi are in a close battle for the final two remaining spots.
Gernot Rohr’s Benin Republic, Gabon, Togo, Congo, and Uganda will, however, be disappointed to miss Africa’s biggest football fiesta.
Countries that have qualified for the AFCON
3. Burkina Faso
4. Cape Verde
14. Ivory Coast
15. Congo DR
18. Equatorial Guinea
19. South Africa