Ivory Coast will be looking to book their place in the knockout stages against Nigeria on Thursday. Following a 1-1 draw on the first day of play against Equatorial Guinea, the Super Eagles will enter the encounter hoping to bounce back from a poor start and resume their pursuit of continental supremacy.
Preview (Ivory Coast vs. Nigeria)
Ivory Coast easily defeated Guinea-Bissau 2-0 on Saturday to begin the 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. Al Nasr player Seko Fofana provided the home team with an incredible start to the match. He curled home the first goal inside the first four minutes. Jean-Philippe Krasso’s goal in the 58th minute made the outcome certain. The team led by Jean-Louis Gasset has now gone seven games in a row without losing in all competitions. Four of those games came after a 1-1 friendly tie with South Africa in October.
Les Elephants’ impressive run of form has also seen them win both of their World Cup qualifying matches. On November 17, they crushed Seychelles 9-0, and two days later, in Dar es Salaam, they triumphed 2-0 over Gambia. With all of their might and the support of their home crowd, Ivory Coast was determined to win their first two games at the AFCON finals for the first time since 2013, when they defeated Togo and Tunisia before squaring up 2-2 with Algeria. By the way, Nigeria won the championship in 2013. They advanced to the final and defeated Burkina Faso by a close score of 1-0.
The Super Eagles are under greater pressure going into their match on Thursday. They were unable to secure a winning start to the continental championship after a 1-1 stalemate with Equatorial Guinea the previous Saturday. Less than two minutes after Iban Salvador scored against the flow of play to put the Nzalang Nacional ahead, Victor Osimhen equalized. However, the Super Eagles wasted numerous clear-cut opportunities to score. They were guilty of a wasteful performance in front of a goal.
The 29-year-old striker Sebastian Haller was noticeably absent from the first game last weekend. It is questionable for Thursday’s match as he continues to heal from an ankle injury. Haller has not scored a goal for Dortmund in the Bundesliga this year. He ought to work in tandem with forward Jonathan Bamba of Celta Vigo and striker Jeremie Boga. With a spectacular curler, Fofana opened the 2023 AFCON. The 28-year-old should continue to play a central role alongside captain Frank and the seasoned Abraham Sangare.
Usmane Diomande, a player for Sporting Lisbon, earned his AFCON debut over the weekend. He and Evan Ndicka are expected to play center back, with Wilfried Singo and Ghislain Konan returning to the full-back positions. In Nigeria’s opening match against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday, Alhassan Yusuf was carted off the field due to injury midway through the second half. The midfield player for Royal Antwerp is a serious doubt for Thursday’s encounter. If he is unable to recover from the injury, Joe Aribo of Southampton will likely play for the Super Eagles. He would join Frank Onyeka and Alex Iwobi in the midfield.
Osimhen equalized against Nzalang Nacional to start his AFCON career, and the Napoli player, along with Moses Simon and 26-year-old Ademola Lookman, could lead Nigeria’s assault once more. At the other end of the field, we anticipate an unaltered starting lineup consisting of Porto full-back Zaidu Sanusi, William Troost-Ekong, Ola Aina, and Semi Ajayi, with Chippa United’s Stanley Nwabali in goal once again.
Ivory Coast 2-2 Nigeria
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