Out-fought and outclassed - 3 reasons Nigeria lost to Cote d'Ivoire at AFCON 2023 final

Kelechi Iheanacho and Victor Osimhen of Super Eagles during the game against Ivory Coast. (Photo Credit: Imago)

Out-fought and outclassed - 3 reasons Nigeria lost to Cote d'Ivoire at AFCON 2023 final

Izuchukwu Akawor 11:56 - 12.02.2024

A passive performance lacking creativity ultimately cost Nigeria the chance to lift the Africa Cup of Nations trophy as a hungry Ivory Coast side executed their gameplan to perfection in the final.

Nigeria’s dreams of AFCON glory were dashed in a thrilling showdown against Ivory Coast, leaving Nigerians reeling in agony. 

Despite entering the match with high hopes and belief, the Super Eagles failed to soar and faltered in the face of the determined hosts, the Elephants.

Here are three reasons why Jose Peseiro’s Eagles succumbed to a heartbreaking loss on Sunday night.

1. Outnumbered in midfield

Nigeria's midfield two Frank Onyeka and Alex Iwobi qualified the Eagles to the final from the group stage but were overrun by Ivory Coast's midfield four. 

Brentford's Frank Onyeka was left exposed in the rematch of the group stage match |Photo Credit: Imago

The Ivorians dominated possession and controlled the tempo with their extra numbers in the engine room, with Stanley Nwabali the busier of the goalkeepers. 

Nigeria’s Super Eagles struggled to gain a foothold and lacked outlets to retain the ball.

Nigerians blame Iwobi for Super Eagles AFCON 2023 Final loss to Ivory Coast.

2. Fatigue and passive play

After an energy-sapping run to the final, including that extra time against South Africa in the semifinal, Nigeria looked leggy and failed to match Ivory Coast's intensity. 

They sat too deep in  the back five deployed by Peseiro and reacted to events rather than taking the initiative. 

Jose Peseiro surpassed his target but failed to improve the team's in possession tactics to seal the title. (Photo Credit: Pooja Media/X)

The Super Eagles lacked their vibrancy and proactiveness, with fatigue perhaps diminishing their work rate of not just individuals but the unit.

3. Ivory Coast's desire

The Elephants showed more determination and commitment to win the trophy on home soil. 

AFCON Champions Ivory Coast|CAF IMAGE

Their aggressiveness in addition to a sup-par officiating hurried Nigeria into mistakes. 

Despite going behind against the run of play after William Troost-Ekong’s thunderous opener, Emerse Fae’s Elephants fought relentlessly to overturn the deficit. 

Ivory Coast manager Emerse Fae was ready for Nigeria's surprises.

Ivory Coast's hunger to lift the AFCON trophy was evident as they refused to settle for second best on the day. 

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