The three-time continental champions were disappointing against Equatorial Guinea but need to step up their performance to secure a positive result against the hosts
Nigeria will seek their first victory at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations when they meet hosts Cote d’Ivoire on Thursday at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan.
While Cote d’Ivoire claimed an impressive 2-0 victory against Guinea-Bissau in the tournament’s opening game, the Super Eagles wobbled to a lacklustre 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea.
The Super Eagles must avoid a defeat and possibly beat hosts Cote d’Ivoire to brighten their chances of making it to the knockout round of the AFCON.
Soccernet.ng highlights how head coach Jose Peseiro can set up his team to outwit and outshine the Elephants.
Chippa United shot-stopper Stanley Nwabali earned his competitive debut for the Super Eagles in the clash against Equatorial Guinea.
Nwabali conceded the only shot that the National Thunder had on target, but he did well with his distribution, ball-handling when mopping up loose balls in his area.
The 28-year-old will likely continue in between the goalposts for Nigeria and will face more questions from Cote d’Ivoire’s forwards.
Nigeria’s defence cracked against the Equatoguineans despite coming under minimal pressure.
A stiffer huddle awaits against the Ivorians who have a robust midfield, tricky wingers, and smart strikers.
Ola Aina did not get out of top gear against Equatorial Guinea and coach Peseiro may be tempted to try out Fenerbahce’s Bright Osayi-Samuel on Thursday.
However, Aina’s experience could be crucial against the Ivorians. Semi Ajayi and William Troost-Ekong started at the heart of Nigetria’s defence on matchday one and they should continue here.
Zaidu Sanusi was less-than-impressive last time out and while Peseiro can give him another chance to do well, Fulham’s Calvin Bassey can offer more at left-back.
Cote d’Ivoire will likely go with a three-man midfield of Fofana, Kessie and Sangare – a trio Nigeria will struggle to match in quality, work-rate, and industry.
Still, expect Peseiro to work out a game plan to nullify the Elephants.
The unavailability of Alhassan Yusuf, who excelled on his Super Eagles debut on Sunday, definitely hampers that plan, though.
Frank Onyeka is a shoe-in for a starting shirt, while Joe Aribo and Raphael Onyedika will battle it out for the role right beside the Brentford man.
Aribo is not in his best form at the moment, while Onyedika is appearing at his first major tournament with Nigeria, leaving Peseiro with a tough choice to make.
Alex Iwobi is Peseiro’s go-to man for creativity in the centre of the park and the Fulham playmaker will need to put up his best performance to outshine the robust Ivorians.
Nigeria’s number-one striker is Victor Osimhen, who got the Super Eagles’ only goal on matchday one.
While he missed a tonne of chances against the Equatoguineans, Osimhen remains the preferred choice ahead of Paul Onuachu and Terem Moffi.
Kelechi Iheanacho, with his experience, efficiency, and excellent passing range, is the perfect strike partner for Osimhen.
The Leicester City forward’s fitness level is, however, still a source of concern.
If Iheanacho fails to make it, Peseiro can turn to Nantes forward Moses Simon.
Simon was deployed on the right flank against Equatorial Guinea when he has often excelled on the left-flank.
To get the best out of Simon, Peseiro may need to return him to his preferred role and hopes the winger brings his A-game against the Ivorians.
Ademola Lookman is Atalanta’s main outlet in attack and he could pair with Osimhen up front.
The former RB Leipzig ace created the goal for Osimhen to head home the equaliser for Nigeria last time out. He will play a part in any positive result the Super Eagles secure on Thursday.
Possible Nigeria lineup (4-3-3):
Nwabali; Osayi, Ajayi, Ekong, Bassey; Onyeka, Aribo, Iwobi; Lookman, Osimhen, Iheanacho
Who should make Nigeria’s starting lineup against Cote d’Ivoire? Leave your opinions in the comment section below.