The two West African giants will do battle on Sunday in one of the most anticipated finals of the biennial championships
Cote d’Ivoire national football team interim coach Emerse Fae has declared that Nigeria’s Super Eagles are not better than his team ahead of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final, Soccernet.ng reports.
Nigeria are the only remaining unbeaten team at the AFCON, having won five and drew one of their six games at the competition.
To get to the final, hosts Cote d’Ivoire lost two of three group matches before accounting for the elimination of defending champions Senegal, Mali, and DR Congo.
One of their two defeats was against Nigeria, with William Troost-Elong netting a fine penalty to hand the Super Eagles a hard-fought 1-0 win at the magnificent Stade Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan.
The same stadium will host the final, but Fae is convinced the Ivorians are not inferior in quality to the Super Eagles.
The former Reading midfielder believes the Elephants are well-positioned to avenge the group stage defeat and ultimately lift the continent’s biggest football trophy.
“The fact that Nigeria had beaten us is a good thing because we know whom we are up against,” Fae declared during Saturday’s pre-match press conference.
“The manner in which we prepare for the match with our players is critical. I think that the Super Eagles and ourselves are at the same level.
“We have a great opportunity tomorrow; we are 90 minutes away from adding a third star to the Ivorian jersey. The teams are on equal footing, psychologically. As the competition has progressed, the Nigerian team has gained strength.
“We had a very difficult journey at the beginning, but we gained momentum from the round of 16 against Senegal.”
Nigeria finished as runners-up to Cameroon when Cote d’Ivoire first hosted the AFCON in 1984.
The Super Eagles can rewrite the history books on Sunday, with a win guaranteed to secure a fourth continental honour following triumphs in 1980, 1994, and 2013.