Two of West Africa’s biggest football nations, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria will clash in a 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) group stage game at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium, on Thursday.
Although it is just a second group stage match for both teams, the importance the game carries remains the same as it was for the previous meetings between these two former winners in this competition.
Here is a Classic Preview of this Group A match.
Thursday’s match will feature the hosts and one of the tournament’s favourites Côte d’Ivoire and their eternal rivals Nigeria with the game meaning different things to the teams after their contrasting fortunes in the group’s opening games.
Côte d’Ivoire did not need to reach second gear before dispatching Guinea-Bissau 2-0 in the tournament’s opening match on Saturday but Nigeria were held by Equatorial Guinea in a game of misses and saves.
Now, the Super Eagles will want to get something from this game to keep up hopes of avoiding an ignominious first round exit while a point can all but seal the Elephants’ qualification for the next round being a 24-nation tournament.
There is an unseen importance in this game which is such that whenever Nigeria avoid defeat against Côte d’Ivoire in an AFCON tournament, they usually go on to win the tournament; their last meeting being in Rustenburg in 2013.
Match 14: Côte d’Ivoire vs Nigeria
Date: Thursday, January 18, 2024
Venue: Stade Olympic Alassane Ouattara, Ebimpe
Time: 6:00pm Nigerian Time.
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While speaking to the press ahead of the game against Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire head coach Jean-Louis Gasset provided an update on the availability of two of his attackers that missed the tournament’s opener on Saturday.
Gasset says Sebastien Haller is making good progress on his recovery journey but will still be assessed before he can be named in the match day squad. Brighton and Hove Albion star Simon Adingra is however pushing for a place in the twenty-three to be selected for the match.
“.@HallerSeb is recovering well, as well as he should, in his situation. We shall assess his progress and make a judgement, on match fitness, at the appropriate time.” – #Elephants coach Jean-Louis Gasset, speaking ahead of Thursday’s #TotalEnergiesAFCON2023 match against… pic.twitter.com/NRVpe2kW3b— Osasu Obayiuwana (@osasuo) January 17, 2024
For Nigeria, forwards Kelechi Iheanacho and Terem Moffi have now had ample training time with the Super Eagles since they arrived the team’s base in Abidjan and are now almost certain of playing some parts in the game against Côte d’Ivoire.
The Super Eagles will however be without midfielder Alhassan Yusuf who had some series of knocks in the game against Equatorial Guinea. Although the injury is not deemed too serious, head coach Jose Peseiro says it is better for him and the team that he stays out to regain better fitness.
WHAT THEY SAY:
The Super Eagles may have been profligate in their opening group game against the Nzalang Nacional but Côte d’Ivoire head coach Gasset is still wary of the Nigerians.
“Nigeria have lots of talented players. They have some of the best players in Africa and you cannot judge them with that result against Equatorial Guinea. We will be facing one of the teams with the potentials to win the title.
“We must improve our technique and be quicker in the transitions from defence to attack and vice versa,” Gasset told the Media on Wednesday.
Nigeria head coach, Peseiro says his team want to play a good game and enjoy “because it is our style” against the Ivorians.
“We want to enjoy the game because it is our style, our model. But we want to play with defensive competence and capabilities.
“We expect a lot from the opponents because they’re a team with very good players and coach but we are also a team with good players and abilities,” said the Portuguese.
HOW TO WATCH
All matches of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) are live on SuperSport and Thursday’s game can be seen LIVE on DStv Channel 202
For online subscribers, you can watch via AfroSport TV, especially for Nigerian subscribers. You can watch here.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Seko Fofana (Côte d’Ivoire): Fofana scored the tournament’s first goal; a majestic effort in front of the packed Stade Olympic Alassane Ouattara on Saturday.
His all round play in midfield was enough to install him as an early contender for the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). He is worth looking out for once again when the hosts come up against the Super Eagles.
Victor Osimhen (Nigeria): Osimhen might have missed a couple of chances in his team’s opening game on Sunday but he remains the Man to watch in this competition.
He is the reigning African Footballer of the Year for a reason and Nigeria’s hopes of excelling in this tournament rests a lot on his shoulders. Thursday’s game is one of such stage for his to show what he is made of.