AFCON 2023: Group A – Ivory Coast v Nigeria

AFCON 2023
Match 14 – Ivory Coast v Nigeria
Thursday 18 January | 19:00

AFCON 2023 is in full swing and the continental showpiece is set to serve up arguably the match of the competition thus far as two West African powerhouses slug it out in front of 60 000 fans. Hosts and Group A leaders Ivory Coast will look to pile the pressure on a Nigerian side who could only manage a draw against Equatorial Guinea in their opener.

To Win Match
Ivory Coast 21/20 | Draw 17/10 | Nigeria 26/10

The hosts got off to the perfect start with Seko Fofana scoring just four minutes into the tournament opener against Guinea-Bissau. He would hit the bar around half an hour later as the Elephants turned the screw. Jean-Philippe Krasso would eventually double the lead with a deft finish in the second half.

It was far from a polished performance with a few lapses in midfield opening the door to Guinea-Bissau who couldn’t capitalise.

Looking ahead, the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpé will be a sea of orange as the hosts look to bag the win that will all but secure their progression to the round of 16. On the injury front, Borussia Dortmund’s Sebastian Haller and Brighton’s Simon Adingra are set to miss out here.

Jean-Louis Gasset will hope that his defence will be able to live with Nigeria’s outrageous array of attacking talent. The likes of Victor Osimhen, Alex Iwobi, Moses Simon and Ademola Lookman pose a real danger if they can put the disappointment of that opening-day draw behind them.

The Super Eagles couldn’t have got their tournament off to a more uninspiring start. A 1-1 stalemate against Equatorial Guinea, a side ranked 88th in the world alongside the behemoths of the game like Haiti and Curaçao.

The format of AFCON does provide a reasonable amount of wiggle room for sides who have misstepped with the four best third-placed sides going through. However, lose against the hosts and Nigeria will see that wiggle room become ever-more constricting as the pressure ramps up.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the three-time champions. Osimhen opened his tournament account in the opening tie. Nigeria also created plenty of chances but a combination wayward finishing and an inspired performance by Equatoguinean goalkeeper Jesús Owono meant José Peseiro’s men had to settle for a point.

Alhassan Yusuf, who was stretchered off against Equatorial Guinea might be fit enough to partake in this crucial clash. The Royal Antwerp midfielder was impressive on his competitive debut for Nigeria will undergo a scan, although Peseiro is upbeat about his chances as of Tuesday morning.

Verdict: Both Teams to Score: YES 13/10

I’m leaning toward the hosts here, but I really do think both of these sides will find the back of the net. Both had some wobbly moments at the back in their opening ties while their forwards looked sharp if not particularly lethal. BTTS looks the way to go at a shade over evens.