5 AFCON lessons - What Nigeria must fix after final heartbreak

Super Eagles team at the AFCON 2023.

5 AFCON lessons - What Nigeria must fix after final heartbreak

Izuchukwu Akawor 02:10 - 12.02.2024

Nigeria's Super Eagles did not keep to their promise of doing it again in the AFCON 2023 after losing the final to Cote d'Ivoire.

Nigeria's defeat to Ivory Coast in the AFCON 2023 final offers important lessons for the Super Eagles to apply moving forward. Despite taking the lead through William Troost-Ekong, naive mistakes ultimately cost Nigeria continental glory

Here are five lessons from Nigeria’s painful loss to the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire.

Slow starts are costly

Nigeria looked off the pace early and conceded possession to the hosts who went on to dictate the game.

The Elephants ceased the early momentum, leaving the Super Eagles to struggle to assert themselves in the encounter.

Nigeria's William Troost-Ekong and Victor Osimhen against Ivory Coast | Imago

Despite taking a first half lead, Nigeria never looked like hurting Ivory Coast, highlighting the importance of a quicker tempo needed from the first whistle.

Lack of creativity hurt

Nigeria struggled to create chances and test the Ivorian keeper who was on holiday for most of the clash.

William Troost-Ekong celebrates his goal.

Despite goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali's busy performance, the Super Eagles created little in terms of goal-scoring chances, leaving them at a disadvantage against a determined Ivory Coast side. 

The Super Eagles needed more ingenuity and ideas in attack, especially after the home side found a way back into the clash.

Sebastian Haller with an attempt. |CAF IMAGE

Over-reliance on direct play

Nigeria focused on their trusted long balls but lacked variety. The absence of Plan B highlighted the importance of tactical flexibility and adaptation.

More nuance and unpredictability were needed in Jose Peseiro’s tactical plan for the glory battle.

Jose Peseiro during the game against Equatorial Guinea. (Photo Credit: Imago)

Never settle for silver

Against the run of play, William Troost-Ekong headed Nigeria ahead, but the Super Eagles were unable to hold on. 

The towering header by Ekong earned him the Player of the Tournament award, it ultimately wasn't enough to secure victory for Nigeria, however. 

While exceptional efforts from key players can significantly impact the outcome of important matches, it is the collective team effort that remains paramount in achieving victory.

Defensive Vigilance and Individual Form

Ola Aina's off day allowed Brighton and Hove Albion star Adingra to enjoy a stellar performance for Ivory Coast in the final.

Ola Aina had a night to forget for the Super Eagles. || Imago

Aina's struggles allowed the youngster to capitalise on scoring opportunities, ultimately contributing to Nigeria's defeat.

This underlines the importance of consistency and sharpness from every player, especially in high-pressure situations where even minor lapses in concentration can prove costly.