Nigeria and Angola will, on Friday, February 2, fight for the chance to progress to the semifinals of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.
Both teams have been unbeaten in their four matches played at the tournament, with a hard-fought encounter expected at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan.
Nigeria, however, will be the favourites to overcome the Angolans and take a further step toward the quest for a fourth continental crown.
The Super Eagles started their AFCON adventure with a shaky 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea but produced a smash-and-grab display to claim a 1-0 win over hosts Cote d’Ivoire on matchday two.
Nigeria needed an own goal to dispatch lowly Guinea-Bissau in their last group match, only for two brilliant Ademola Lookman goals to power them past Cameroon in the round of 16.
While Nigeria have blown cold and hot in equal proportion, however, Angola have been progressively impressive.
The Palancas Negras, who did not win a match at the 2019 AFCON and failed to qualify for the 2021 edition, held former champions Angola to a 1-1 draw in their opening Group D match in Cote d’Ivoire.
The Angolans followed it up with a thrilling 3-2 win over Mauritania before securing an excellent 2-0 win against Burkina Faso to finish as group leaders.
Their second-round clash with Namibia proved their easiest challenge as a Gelson Dala brace and another strike from Mabululu helped them stroll to a 3-0 victory.
Angola are on an unprecedented three AFCON wins in a row, and a triumph over Nigeria will not only guarantee a historic fourth but will also lift the Pelancas Negras to a first-ever appearance in the semifinals.
However, a Nigeria loss in the quarterfinals of the AFCON is not a common sight.
Nigeria have only ever lost one quarterfinal tie in 16 attempts – a narrow 2-1 defeat to hosts Ghana at the 2008 edition – and Angola will have to be perfect on Friday to record one of the biggest upsets in AFCON history.
Interestingly, while this is Nigeria’s 102nd match at the AFCON, it is the first time the three-time winners are meeting Angola.
In other competitions, however, the two nations have met ten times, with the teams claiming two victories each and five other matches ending in draws.
Between those games, Nigeria stopped Angola from making it to the 1984 and 2004 AFCONs, while the Pelancas Negras got back their pound of flesh by qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup ahead of the Super Eagles.
Angola team news
Angola will be without first-choice goalkeeper Adilson Neblú after being shown a straight red card for handling the ball outside his penalty area in the 16th minute of the win over Namibia.
Lausanne-born António Signori took his place in that encounter, and he will likely keep the spot against Nigeria.
Key midfielder Beni Mukendi has reportedly left the Angolan camp to return to his Portuguese club, Casa Pia, following his limited playing time in Ivory Coast.
Nigeria team news
Goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali suffered an injury in the second half of the Super Eagles clash with Cameroon, and he remains a doubt for this fixture.
Should he fail a late fitness test, head coach Jose Peseior could call Francis Uzoho to step in for the Chippa United shot-stopper.
Captain William Troost-Ekong is also an injury concern, but aside from that, Nigeria have a clean bill of health.
Nigeria (3-4-3): Uzoho; Ajayi, Troost-Ekong, Bassey; Aina, Onyeka, Iwobi, Sanusi; Lookman, Chukwueze, Osimhen
Angola (4-3-3): Signori; Eddie, Gaspar, Buatu, Carneiro; Fredy, Show, Estrela; Gilberto, Mabululu, Dala
Nigeria – Victor Osimhen
Super Eagles’ talismanic forward Victor Osimhen has only one goal in this tournament, but his influence has been crucial to Nigeria’s success.
The Napoli striker won the crucial penalty that led to the winning goal against Ivory Coast, forced the Guinea-Bissau defender to score an own goal, and made an astonishing assist for Lookman to net the opener against Cameroon.
The reigning Africa Player of the Year will be Angola’s worst nightmare
Angola – Gelson Dala
Gelson Dala has been one of the standout players at the 2023 AFCON.
The 27-year-old striker only plays for Qatar Al Wakrah, but his four goals at the AFCON are better led by Equatorial Guinea’s Emilio Nsue, who already exited the tournament.
Dala also has an assist and will carry his country’s hopes of making the last-four stage.
Competition: AFCON 2023
Match: Nigeria vs Angola
Venue: Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Abidjan)
Date: Friday, February 2, 2024
Kickoff: 6 pm (Nigerian time)
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