Eagles battle Elephants in crucial AFCON tie

Super Eagles

Super Eagles coach Jose Peseiro insists he will stick to his previous game plan as his side battle hosts Ivory Coast in their second Group A game of the 2023 AFCON on Thursday (today) at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium, Abidjan, The PUNCH reports.

Today’s meeting will be the ninth between the Super Eagles and the Elephants at the AFCON, with both sides winning thrice respectively, while the other two encounters ended in stalemate.

Having failed to win their first game of the tournament against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday, which ended 1-1, Peseiro’s men need a positive result against the Ivorians – who won their first game 2-0 against Guinea-Bissau – to restart their campaign.

Despite the urgency to turn things around with the game, Peseiro again was prophetic during the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.

“We have what it takes to win the game and I won’t change my strategy because we create chances. Of course, we don’t have excuses but the point is that me and my staff have also seen the issues. From the last game, we deserve much more and we will create more opportunities. Like I said before, sometimes God takes, sometimes God gives, if it’s the right time, God will give us,” Peseiro told journalists at the presser.

Ivory Coast captain Max-Alain Gradel sounded a warning to the Eagles ahead of the game.

Gradel, who has 105 caps and was part of the squad that won the AFCON in Equatorial Guinea in 2015, warned that despite their respect for their West African neighbours, they would make their fans proud on match day.

“We are Ivory Coast. We respect all our opponents. But we fear nobody. We will do what we have to do,” Gradel said.

“It is a special moment for us to play the Africa Cup of Nations in our home, with the support of our people. We will do everything to make the people proud. We have super players in the squad, especially for what they bring to the group. It is a decisive match; it is an important match. We know what we have to do.”

Meanwhile, Eagles forward Kelechi Iheanacho says he is fully fit for the clash after the Leicester City star missed Nigeria’s first game on Sunday, having only arrived camp a day before the game due to a muscle injury he was recovering from.

After being named in the final 25-man list, Iheanacho has been a doubt for the tournament, but unlike other injured players, he wasn’t replaced in the squad after he started his recovery at his club.

“I’m feeling really good. I was out for a little bit but I’m ready to go, I’m 100 per cent and ready to serve the nation,” Iheanacho said.

“We got a draw in the first game and I think it’s a wakeup call for us ahead of the next game. One game at a time and we need Nigerians to support us as well. From the inside, we have all it takes, we just have to keep working hard and keep believing,” the player added.

During the pre-match conference on Wednesday, Peseiro also affirmed the player was fully fit.

“He has shown good conditions since he arrived and he is ready,” the coach said.

Playing against the hosts, one thing the Eagles will have to deal with today is the intimidating support the Ivorians will get inside the 60,000 capacity Alassane Ouattara Stadium.

The match will kick off at 6pm Nigerian time. AFCON 2023 is broadcast live in Nigeria by Pay-TV giants StarTimes.


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