The Super Eagles are the highest-ranking team at the AFCON following the exit of Morocco, Senegal, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria
Angola head coach Pedro Gonçalves has revealed that he voted Nigeria’a striker Victor Osimhen as the best player in the world during the Ballon d’Or voting process in 2023, Soccernet.ng reports.
Osimhen finished eighth in the final ranking of the 2023 Ballon d’Or, which Lionel Messi won, becoming the first Nigerian to make it into the prestigious award’s top ten.
The Napoli striker garnered 24 points to finish ahead of Mohamed Salah, Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane, and Karim Benzema, among many others.
One of those votes came from Angola boss Gonçalves, who revealed his admiration for Osimhen at the pre-match press conference on Thursday.
Speaking ahead of Nigeria’s quarterfinal clash with Angola, the Portuguese tactician believes the Super Eagles are made stronger by the presence of Osimhen and Atalanta forward Ademola Lookman.
“We respect Nigeria for all the investment it has made in African football so far,” Gonçalves said.
“Nigeria is a powerhouse with great players in the best national leagues, with five or six of them in the Premier League in their first eleven, another two in Calcio, one of whom I voted for as the best player in the world last year, Victor Osimhen, and the other is Ademola Lookman, a great player I met when I was still working at Sporting and he was extraordinary at Alvalade, with Atalanta and playing in the Europa League.”
Super Eagles coach Jose Peseiro has been fluid with his formation at the 2023 AFCON, with the former Porto manager deploying the team in a 4-3-3 formation before switching to a 3-4-3 for the other three games.
Gonçalves admits Peseiro can switch playing styles because of the excellent players at his disposal who can adapt quickly.
The former Sporting CP academy coach name-checks Ola Aina, Zaidu Sanusi, Moses Simon, Osimhen, and Lookman as the key pieces that make Peseiro’s team tick.
“I think they got the best formation and strategy they could with this squad to be competitive in this CAN,” Gonçalves added.
“At the beginning, they played in 4-3-3 and, from the second game onwards, in 3-4-3, very solidly with three central defenders, plus two wingers with a lot of physical and physiological capacity doing the back and forth, Aina and Zaidu, who I know because he played for Porto; a very pendulous midfield and a front line with Moses, Osimhen and Lookman.”
Gonçalves, however, believes the Super Eagles have shown weaknesses in certain areas, which he and his team will look to capitalise on to do the damage when the two nations meet on Friday.
“(Nigeria have) a powerful team, but also with some weaknesses that we will exploit to create difficulties for our opponent. We’ll see, but it’s definitely a great opportunity for us, an opportunity in a lifetime.”
Angola are aiming to reach the semifinals of the AFCON for the first time in their history, a stage Nigeria have been in 15 of their 19 previous appearances at the tournament.