EVALUATING SUPER EAGLES’ 2023 AFCON PERFORMANCE IS THE FOCUS OF TODAY’S VIEWPOINT. IT IS WRITTEN BY AANUOLUWAPO FASOYIN OF OUR NEWS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT
Nigeria’s journey at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON tournament in Cote d’ivoire was a rollercoaster ride of emotions for over 200 million passionate Nigerian fans.
With a legacy boasting three AFCON titles, the super eagles flew into the tournament as contenders, though early doubts surfaced regarding the team’s cohesion and tactical approach.
Prior to the competition, Coach Jose Peseiro’s tenure was marked by inconsistency, exemplified by poor performances against underdogs during the world cup qualifiers.
Amidst scepticism, the “let’s do it again” campaign sought to reignite faith and support among fans, emphasizing the team’s resilience and determination.
Yet, many Nigerians could not be convinced, despite that the team garnered seven points in the group stage, not until the super eagles convincingly eliminated 2017 champions, Cameroon in the round of 16 by two goals to nothing.
Thereafter, super eagles eventually won the hearts of many Nigerians, especially for the defensive mechanism introduced by the technical crew, materialized by the players and unbelievable performance of goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali.
The super eagles playing to newly found winning tactics of Peseiro, surprisingly scaled through Angola and South Africa to book another face off in the final with Cote d’ivoire, that lost by a lone goal to Nigeria at the group stage.
The semi-final clash with the Bafana Bafana of South Africa would also be a memorable one for Nigerians as four football lovers lost their lives while watching the game.
Reaching the tournament’s final was an unexpected turn of events, surpassing the Nigeria football federation’s mandate of a semi-final finish.
The hosts, Cote d’ivoire, shattered Nigeria’s dreams of being crowning the champions of Africa football, as the elephants came back from a goal down to emerge African champions for the third time.
Winning the 2023 AFCON final would have been Nigeria’s fourth success in twenty AFCON tournaments.
Nigeria were crowned champions in 1980, 1994 and 2013, now fifth time runners up and came third eight times, making 16 podium appearances, the most by any country in the competition.
If Nigeria had emerged winners of the 2023 AFCON, the super eagles would have won seven million us dollars as prize money from the confederation of Africa football CAF.
Also, compensations from the government, corporate organizations and individuals would have been queuing for them and also would have created an avenue for Nigerians to celebrate despite the socio economic situation confronting the nation.
It is worthy to note that despite emerging runners up, the team captain, Williams Troost-ekong was the player of the tournament.
Now, the decision of NFF to either honour its commitment to Peseiro or explore alternative avenues to propel the team forward holds significant implications for Nigerian football, with the focus shifting towards future qualifying campaigns and international tournaments.
Whether continuity under Peseiro’s guidance or a quest for fresh leadership will best serve the super eagles remains a subject of fervent debate, underscoring the complexities of navigating the ever-evolving landscape of African football.