AFCON 2023: Nigeria’s prowess meets Equatorial Guinea’s resilience


Nigeria is set to open their TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations campaign against Equatorial Guinea in an intriguing Group A match in Abidjan this Sunday.

This encounter marks the first between the two nations in the history of the AFCON, although they have clashed in the qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, with Nigeria emerging victorious in both matches (1-0; 2-0).

Nigeria, often referred to as the Super Eagles, boasts a rich history in the tournament, making their 20th appearance.

They have lifted the trophy three times (1980, 1994, 2013) and have a remarkable record of reaching the semi-finals in 14 of their last 17 AFCON participations.

However, they will be keen to avenge their loss in the finals of the 1984 AFCON, which was also held in Côte d’Ivoire, where they were defeated 3-1 by Cameroon.

The Super Eagles come into this tournament with an impressive track record, having won 12 of their last 15 matches in the AFCON (L3), and not drawing a match since the 2013 group stages.

Their attacking prowess was on full display during the qualifying campaign for the 2023 AFCON, where they scored 22 goals in six games, the highest tally among the 24 teams.

Victor Osimhen, their standout striker, was instrumental in this feat, scoring 10 goals – double that of any other player in the qualifiers.

Equatorial Guinea, on the other hand, is making its fourth appearance in the AFCON, but only the second as non-hosts.

They have a history of punching above their weight, having reached the knockout stages in all their appearances: quarter-finalists in 2012 and 2021, and an impressive 4th place in 2015. However, their goal-scoring record in the tournament has been modest, never scoring more than two goals in their 15 matches.

A key player to watch will be Victor Osimhen, who not only scored 10 goals but also contributed two assists in the qualifiers, being directly involved in 55% of Nigeria’s goals.

This performance is the highest tally of goals scored in the qualifying phase of an AFCON edition since Moumouni Dagano with Burkina Faso in 2010 (12 goals). Interestingly, despite Osimhen’s dominance, Nigeria had 10 different goal scorers in the qualifiers, more than any other team.

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