A titanic clash awaits African football as Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire contest the CAF AFCON 2023 final on Sunday. This heavyweight bout sees two bitter rivals collide with continental glory at stake.
The face off will be the eighth final appearance by Nigeria who were champions in 1980, 1994 and 2013; and the fourth final appearance by Cote d’Ivoire who were champions in 1992 and 2015.
February 11th will witness a final for the ages at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium. When these foes last met in the group stage, Nigeria edged out the hosts 1-0.
However, with redemption on the line, Cote d’Ivoire will be a different beast. And Nigeria know preventing the Elephants from winning a third AFCON on home soil represents their toughest test.
For Nigerian manager Jose Peseiro, outwitting Cote d’Ivoire boss Emerse Fae will be key. Peseiro’s tactical nous guided Nigeria past South Africa in a 4-2 penalty shootout thriller on Wednesday’s first semi final match.
“Our team has a huge state of mind. The team fights together, There are 25 of us (in the squad and) it’s difficult to beat us,” said Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro. “Deep down, thinking about that second cancelled (Nigerian) goal and the (South African equaliser), a lot of teams would have given up.”
“I am very happy, the players are happy, they deserve it, we deserve it, the Super Eagles deserve it, the Nigerian people deserve it.”
South Africa coach Hugo Broos said: “Football can be cruel. You play a bad match against Cape Verde, you win on penalties. You play a very good match against Nigeria and lose on penalties.”
But Fae also showed grit to overcome DR Congo 1-0 in the semi-finals. Much will depend on the battle between Peseiro and fae on the touchline.
On the pitch, the stars will shine bright under the Abidjan lights. Cote d’Ivoire boasts star players Nicolas Pepe and prolific Dortmund striker Sebastien Haller.
Yet Nigeria have talents like Napoli’s Victor Osimhen and William Troost-Ekong in their ranks. With such pedigree on display, a goal-fest could await.
Whoever prevails, African football is the ultimate winner. This TotalEnergies CAF AFCON reaches a fitting crescendo with two heavyweights fighting for continental glory.
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