The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations just ended on Sunday, with Nigeria losing 2-1 to hosts Cote d’Ivoire in the final at the Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara, Soccernet.ng reports.
The Super Eagles had a good run in the tournament, losing only one game, which was the final. On the road to the final, coach Jose Peseiro and his lads created a lot of memories.
Soccernet.ng takes a journey through the 29 days of action and relives eight of Nigeria’s best moments.
1. Nigeria beating hosts Cote d’Ivoire in the first round
Nigeria defeated hosts Cote d’Ivoire in their second game of the group stages. Going into the fixture, many Nigerian fans had doubts about the team, especially after their day one draw against Equatorial Guinea. However, they proved doubters wrong, as William Troost-Ekong’s penalty sent the team through.
2. Nigeria beating Cameroon to extend their dominance over the Indomitable Lions
Two goals from Ademola Lookman helped Nigeria beat Cameroon in the round of 16 of the AFCON. Cameroon were not convincing in the group stage, but despite their form, the clash between both countries was expected to be a tough one.
However, Lookman stepped up to the occasion and scored two beautiful goals to see the three-time African championship through. That win kept Nigeria’s unbeaten run against the Indomitable Lions intact.
3. Stanley Nwabali’s smiles after making important saves
Francis Uzoho was the first-choice goalkeeper going into the AFCON, but Nwabali displaced him. The Chippa United star manned the sticks in all of Nigeria’s games, and he was impressive. Funnily, Nwabali had a habit of smiling after making some important saves. Nigerians soon got used to his smiles in the course of the tournament.
4. Nwabali outshined Nigeria greats Enyeama, Rufai & Emmanuel Okala
Aside from Nwabali’s smiles, he also wrote his name in Nigeria’s history books. Following the Super Eagles’ clean sheet against Angola, he became the first Nigerian goalkeeper to record four consecutive clean sheets at the AFCON.
5. The semi-final against South Africa and the many broken records
The semi-final between Nigeria and South Africa was one of the most thrilling encounters in the AFCON. The Bafana Bafana gave the Super Eagles a big fight, and it eventually dragged into extra-time. South Africa had already set a precedence in the previous round, as Ronwen Williams saved four penalties against Cape Verde. However, the Super Eagles proved their worth. Nwabali saved two penalties, while Kelechi Iheanacho scored the last spot-kick to send Nigeria through, and he had an iconic celebration to go with it.
That game ensured that Nigeria won six penalty shootouts at the Africa Cup of Nations, the joint-highest tally in the competition’s history alongside Egypt.
6. Lookman scored three goals in the knockout rounds to equal Okocha, Yekini and Ighalo’s records
Ademola Lookman was one of Nigeria’s best players at the AFCON, and his goals ensured that the team reached the final. Lookman scored three goals in the competition- two against Cameroon and one against Angola.
His feat ensured he became the first player after Jay-Jay Okocha, Rashidi Yekini and Odion Ighalo to score three goals in the knockout rounds.
7. Troost-Ekong winning the Man of the Tournament after rewriting history
Troost-Ekong was the stand-in captain for Nigeria, as Ahmed Musa was on the bench for the entire AFCON. He wrote his name in AFCON’s history books after becoming the first defender to score three goals in the same AFCON.
Also, Troost-Ekong scored two penalty goals with Nigeria at this 2023 CAF Africa Cup of Nations (vs Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa), becoming the fourth Nigerian player to score multiple goals from the spot at the same AFCON edition, after Samuel Ojebode (two in 1976), Jay-Jay Okocha (two in 2004) and Victor Moses (two in 2013).
8. Alex Iwobi surpassing Okocha’s Nigeria appearance record
Okocha is one of the most talented players to play for Nigeria, but his nephew Iwobi surpassed his record with the team in the final. The Fulham man got his 74th cap, edging Okocha, who had 73 before retirement. Unfortunately for Iwobi, his 74th cap did not go as he would have wished, as it ended in a defeat for the Super Eagles, and he was a victim of unkind banter and insults in the aftermath of the loss.