Nigeria’s journey through the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations has been remarkable, culminating in a thrilling semifinal win over Angola in Abidjan last Friday.
While the spotlight has rightfully shone on players like Ademola Lookman, Victor Osimhen, William Troost-Ekong, Moses Simon, and Calvin Bassey for their stellar contributions to Nigeria’s AFCON campaign, one figure who has been somewhat overlooked amidst the acclaim is Jose Peseiro.
The former Porto boss has quietly steered the Super Eagles toward the brink of African glory, with just two games separating them from clinching the prestigious title.
Peseiro’s tactical brilliance has proven instrumental, a stark contrast to the skepticism that surrounded Nigeria’s entry into the tournament.
Entering the competition on shaky ground, with two draws in World Cup qualifiers and a friendly defeat against Guinea, Peseiro faced the looming threat of dismissal by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF).
Financial constraints reportedly prevented the termination, but the specter of instability loomed over the team.
Key injuries to vital attacking players, Victor Boniface and Umar Sadiq, added to the challenges.
Peseiro, however, responded by dismissing the rumours surrounding his contract and rejecting a purported extension offered by the NFF.
This less-than-peaceful work environment, common before major tournaments in African football, did much to derail the Super Eagles.
Adapting swiftly, Peseiro called in replacements for Boniface and Sadiq, and shifted tactics from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3 after a lackluster draw against Equatorial Guinea on matchday one.
The adjustment yielded victories over Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau, propelling Nigeria to the Round of 16 as Group A runners-up.
From there, the team exhibited remarkable stability, conceding no goals and showcasing decent offensive prowess.
As the highest-ranked team at the AFCON following the eliminations of Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt, the Super Eagles under Peseiro appear well-equipped for success.
Despite rankings not guaranteeing victory, the team faces an over-achieving South Africa in the semifinal with a potential date in the final with either an inconsistent Ivory Coast or an exciting Democratic Republic of Congo.
Peseiro, often overlooked for much of his career due to a lack of trophies, could rewrite his narrative by securing AFCON glory – the most significant achievement of his coaching career.
Having met the NFF’s semifinal target, the question now looms: Will Peseiro continue as Super Eagles coach?
Rumours suggest Peseiro is interested in coaching a top Egyptian club, raising uncertainty about his future.
Whether the NFF is convinced Peseiro is the right man for the Super Eagles or can convince him to stay remains to be seen.