The Ivory Coast and Nigeria will clash at the continental championship in a tie that could have a significant impact on their title ambitions
Head coach Jean-Louis Gasset of hosts Cote d’Ivoire has admitted that Nigeria’s Super Eagles will be a tough customer to face when the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in January, Soccernet.ng reports.
Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire have been drawn together in Group A at the tournament, alongside Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea.
The Super Eagles will lock horns with Equatorial Guinea, while the Elephants will square up against Guinea-Bissau on matchday one.
The most anticipated match in Group A between Nigeria and Ivory Coast is scheduled for January 18, with the winner likely to finish top of the group.
Ivory Coast coach Gasset has revealed he would have loved to take on Nigeria on matchday three, probably when qualification to the knockout rounds would have been guaranteed.
The former Bordeaux and Montpellier manager admits that both the Elephants and the Super Eagles are not as excellent as before, but he remains wary of a Nigerian team that will be the most valuable at the tournament.
“Unfortunately, we are to meet Nigeria in our second game,” Gasset told ACLSports.
“I would have loved it to be the last. They say the Elephants are no longer as great as they were; I see the same for Nigeria, too.
“Back in the day, the Super Eagles were phenomenal, but things have changed. However, they remain a solid side and could destroy any team in the competition, so you have to be careful.”
While Nigeria and Ivory Coast will be the favourites to qualify from Group A, Gasset is careful not to dismiss the threat of Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea.
“Since the draw, I have been hearing Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria as the two sides to progress from the group. That’s funny to me,” the Frenchman says.
“This is an Afcon. It’s a big competition. Every qualified team is aiming for success. Don’t be surprised to see surprises. Our main objective as a host nation is the ultimate, but we have to lay the foundation right in the group stage.”
Nigeria, who won their last title in 2013, have lifted the AFCON trophy on four occasions – two more than the Ivorians.
The Super Eagles have vowed to gun for Nigeria’s fifth honour at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations when it kicks off on January 13, 2024.