3 mistakes Peseiro made in the AFCON 2023 final defeat to Ivory Coast

Former Super Eagles boss José Peseiro on the sideline. || Imago

3 mistakes Peseiro made in the AFCON 2023 final defeat to Ivory Coast

Tunde Young 14:18 - 13.02.2024

The Super Eagles of Nigeria lost the final of AFCON 2023 to Ivory Coast and manager Jose Peseiro is to blame for the following reasons.

AFCON 2023 came to an incredible end with host nation Ivory Coast coming back from behind to beat Nigeria 2-1 to claim the prestigious trophy against all odds.

William Troost-Ekong scored the opener for Nigeria with a towering header in the 32nd minute to give the Super Eagles a first half lead.

Les Elephants dominated the game and their endeavor was rewarded with an equaliser in the 62nd minute when Franck Kessie headed home from a Simon Adingra corner.

Sebastien Haller then scored with winner in the 81st minute, connecting brilliantly with another Adingra cross to direct the ball into the back of the net and secure Ivory Coast's third AFCON trophy.

The disappointing result has of course led to an endless blame cycle within the Nigerian team but ultimately the manager is at fault.

Here are three mistakes Jose Peseiro made against Ivory Coast which cost Nigeria the final.

3 mistakes Peseiro made in the AFCON 2023 final

1. Poor tactical approach

The Super Eagles started the tournament with a 4-3-3 formation but after drawing the first game against Equatorial Guinea, Peseiro switched to 3-4-3 which yielded results.

Super Eagles manager, Jose Peseiro, with his captains, William Troost-Ekong (left) and Ahmed Musa (right).
Super Eagles manager, Jose Peseiro, with his captains, William Troost-Ekong (left) and Ahmed Musa (right). (Photo Credit: Oganla Media/X)

Despite winning against Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon and Angola, the setup showed cracks against South Africa in the semis and that should have been Peseiro's cue for a change.

The 3-4-3 formation is essentially a 5-2-3 formation which leaves Nigeria with only two midfielders, Alex Iwobi and Frank Onyeka both of whom were no match for Ivory Coast's midfield.

The Super Eagles were outnumbered in the middle with Jean-Michel Seri, Frank Kessie and Seko Fofana proving too much to handle for the Nigerian midfield.

Peseiro should have played with a 4-3-3 to match the Ivorians man for man in the middle but he probably was too wary of tampering with a winning team, forgetting that styles makes fights.

2. Poor rotation of players

Another key reason for Nigeria's poor performance in the final is exhaustion which was evident in the Super Eagles' inability to press as well as they had done before that game.

Super Eagles team at the AFCON 2023.
Super Eagles team at the AFCON 2023.

Peseiro had kept faith in the same set of players for the entire tournament with little to no rotation even in games where key figures could have been rested or taken off earlier.

For example, the third group stage game against Guinea-Bissau was a good chance to rotate the squad as Nigeria already had four points from the first two games, meaning qualification effectively guaranteed but Peseiro still played Osimhen for the full 90 minutes.

Osimhen started every game in AFCON 2023 and the earliest he was taken off was in the 88th minute in the group stage game against Ivory Coast, a key indication of why he burned out by the final.

Victor Osimhen being stretchered off during Nigeria's quarterfinal against Angola | Imago

The same applies to the likes of Ola Aina, Frank Onyeka,, Calvin Bassey and Alex Iwobi amongst others who played a high-intensity role and expended lots of energy.

If Peseiro had managed the squad better, the Super Eagles would not have looked so exhausted in the most important game, therefore losing the final.

3. Poor decision-making

Jose Peseiro can also be blamed for the poor decisions made before and during the final, especially with his lack of reaction to Ivory Coast's dominance in the final.

The decision to drop Moses Simon who had been the regular starter for most of the tournament in favour of Samuel Chukwueze for the final has turned out to be the wrong one with the benefit of hindsight of course.

Moses Simon || Imago

Apart from being the more direct of the two wingers, Simon also has a defensive side to his game which could have come in handy for Nigeria down the right as Ola Aina was constantly exposed against Simon Adingra.

The manager also could have done a lot more in reacting to Ivory Coast's dominance but he remained dormant until Nigeria conceded twice and then started making changes.

These mistakes ultimately cost the Super Eagles the final against Ivory Coast as football is a game of slim margins and little things can change the sequence of events.