The former PSG and Bolton Wanderers midfielder has been one of the most prominent African heroes enjoying the live actions at the continental championships
Former Nigerian international Austin Okocha has revealed to the Super Eagles the main keys to beating Cote d’Ivoire on Thursday, Soccernet.ng reports.
Nigeria will trade tackles with hosts Cote d’Ivoire in their second Group A match at the ongoing 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.
Both teams, among the favourites to dethrone Senegal as African champions, have quality in abundance with Europe-based stars across every department of the pitch.
Okocha, who has been in constant touch with the Super Eagles and was recently captured dancing with Nigerian players in their dressing room, believes the team has what is needed to beat any opponent on their day.
The 1994 AFCON winner, however, admits it would be difficult for Nigeria to defeat an Ivorian side who are the hosts and claimed a 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau in their opening match.
Still, Okocha is convinced the Super Eagles can win with the right mindset.
“I think what the key will be is experience, desire, and state of mind,” Okocha said, as per Kenya Star.
“For me, they are professionals, and they know the importance of this match; I think their mindset will be the key.
“Every match is difficult, but when you play the host country, it is even more difficult. But, of course, the beauty of football is that if you want to be champions, you have to win against the best.
“If you are well prepared, you have a chance of winning your match. But, we Nigerians, we know that it will be a difficult match but also, we believe that we have enough potential to be able to win this match.”
To win, Nigeria will count on the excellent goal-scoring abilities of Napoli striker Victor Osimhen.
Despite the presence of Paul Onuachu, Terem Moffi, and Kelechi Iheanacho, Osimhen remains the likely candidate to lead the attack for the Super Eagles.
Osimhen scored the Super Eagles’ only goal in Nigeria’s lacklustre 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea in their opening match.
Okocha has confidence in Osimhen’s prowess, but the PSG playmaker has charged the team to create the chances the striker needs to fire Nigeria to victory.
“We know that Victor Osimhen is a world-class goalscorer, a very great player. He needs the services of his team and I believe he got them in the first match,” Okocha added.
“It’s not all the time that we see him miss clear opportunities. I think he is eager to correct his mistakes and with him, we have hope and we believe in him because we know he is capable of shining in any competition.”
Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire have met three times at the group stage of the AFCON, with all the games being cagey affairs.
Nigeria has one win (1-0 in 1990), lost one (0-1 in 2008), and settled for a goalless draw at the 1980 tournament.