AFCON Final Showdown: It’s Nigeria Vs Cote d’Ivoire

  • As Elephants beat Leopards of DR Congo 1 – 0
  • Super Eagles seek fourth continental crown

BY VICTOR OSOWOCHI – It is now confirmed that Group A rivals, Super Eagles of Nigeria and Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire will be colliding in the blockbuster contest at the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON 2023 final on Sunday.

No doubt, this titanic clash will relive memories of their January 18 group clash in which the Nigerians ran away with a 1-0 victory courtesy of William Troost-Ekong’s second-half penalty against the host nation.

With continental glory at stake for both sides in different ways, February 11th will witness a final for the ages at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium. While Cote d’Ivoire will be seeking redemption, the Super Eagles know that preventing the Elephants from winning a third AFCON on home soil represents an uphill task and their toughest test so far.

For Nigerian manager Jose Peseiro, outwitting Cote d’Ivoire interim boss, Coach Emerse Fae will be key and pundits expect him to deploy against the host nation the same tactical acumen that guided Nigeria past South Africa in the thrilling penalty shootout during Wednesday’s first semi-final

However, the stakes are quite high against Fae, whose wards showed so much grit in overcoming DR Congo 1-0 in the second semi-final match. Already, fans are saying that the battle between Peseiro and Fae will be won from the touchline.

On the pitch, the stars will shine bright under the Abidjan lights. While the Elephants boasts of known names like Nicolas Pepe, prolific Dortmund striker Sebastien Haller, and former FC Barcelona midfielder, Franck Yannick Kessié, the Super Eagles are not lacking in quality with talents like Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, Skipper William Troost-Ekong, Alex Iwobi and Ademola Lukman in their ranks.

Given their pedigree, a scintillating encounter is expected and whoever prevails, African football will be the ultimate winner.

Keeper Nwabali Praises Team-mates
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s penalty shootout hero, Keeper Stanley Nwabali has deflected personal praise onto his teammates after steering the Super Eagles to reach the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON final on Wednesday night.

Nwabali praises teammates

Nwabali saved two crucial spot kicks and earned the Man of the Match award as Nigeria edged South Africa 4-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Bouake on Wednesday night.

Despite earning rave reviews for his shootout excellence, the humble keeper highlighted Nigeria’s team ethic, saying; “It has been a good team performance throughout this tournament. I really appreciate the management and coaches”

The Chippa United of South Africa stopper commended Head Coach Jose Peseiro in particular, maintaining that he was delighted when Peseiro visited him in South Africa before AFCON, calling it a huge motivational factor.

“When the coach informed me he was coming to visit, for me it was one of the biggest things. A coach to come visit was a motivation. When he said he was coming I was really pleased,” Nwabali remarked.

This humility and modesty has endeared Nwabali to Nigerian fans during a fairytale tournament and his penalty heroics against South Africa will be remembered for generations, etching his name into Nigerian folklore.

Yet for Nwabali, it is all about the team. As Nigeria prepare for the final against Cote d”Ivoire or DR Congo, their unwavering spirit could prove the difference.

Nwabali embodies this spirit, deflecting praise and driving standards higher, submitting thus; “These guys have really guided me a lot throughout this tournament, and I feel so happy”. – With reports

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