The Super Eagles of Nigeria have finally returned to Abuja from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where they almost won their fourth AFCON title, with a bag of questions.
Before the 2023 AFCON, the Super Eagles weren’t given a chance to go far in the tournament due to their abysmal form under coach Jose Peseiro.
Recall that the Super Eagles recorded two successive draws and a defeat before they played their opening game in the 2023 AFCON which ended in a 1-1 draw against Equatorial Guinea.
Hence, coach Jose Peseiro and his boys were written off by most Nigerian football enthusiasts despite the team’s theme of “Let’s Do It Again”.
Interestingly, the Super Eagles ignited the faith of Nigerians in them when they defeated the hosts of the tournament, Ivory Coast, 1-0 on January 18. They followed that up with a 1-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau.
The Nigerian team suddenly became the major contender for the title when they stunned their AFCON nemesis, Cameroon, 2-0 in the round of 16.
They went on to knockout Angola and then South Africa in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.
Interestingly, the Super Eagles met Ivory Coast again but this time around in the final and under a new head coach, Emerse Fae. And to the surprise of most Nigerians, the hosts outplayed Nigerians and won the title after a 2-1 scoreline.
Will NFF Extend Jose Peseiro’s Contract?
Before the tournament, reports claimed that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) signed a 6-month deal with coach Jose Peseiro which expired immediately after the 2023 AFCON.
In the short deal, the NFF inserted a clause that the football body can only consider extending Jose Peseiro’s contract if he leads the Super Eagles to the semi-final stage of the 2023 AFCON.
Fortunately for the 63-year-old Portuguese tactician, he was able to reach the ultimatum and even surpassed it by reaching the final.
However, most football pundits, like former Nigerian goalkeeper, Idah Peterside, urged the NFF to sack the coach for forcing a star-studded Super Eagles side to be so defensive throughout the tournament.
Most critics believe that it was because of Jose Peseiro’s defensive style of football Ivory Coast were able to come from a goal down to beat the Nigerian team 2-1 in the final.
The argument was that Jose Peseiro’s defensive style was exposed in the semi-final clash with South Africa which Nigeria won via penalties. Hence, he ought to have changed tactics in the final but didn’t to the detriment of the team’s goal of winning the 2023 AFCON.
As it stands, it will be interesting to see what the NFF decides to do with Jose Peseiro in the coming days.
What Next For the Super Eagles Of Nigeria?
Now that the 2023 AFCON is over, the attention of the Super Eagles is expected to be shifted to the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.
After recording 1-1 draws against Lesotho and Zimbabwe respectively in their first set of games in the World Cup qualifiers, they are expected to beat South Africa on June 3, 2024, to return on track in the qualification series.
On June 10, they will face Benin Republic in their fourth game in the 2026 World Cup qualification series.
It will be interesting to see the coach who will lead the Super Eagles through these games and the number of the team’s players who would have announced their retirement from the national team before then.
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