AFCON 2023: It’s the battle of giants as Nigeria face Ivory Coast test


Ivory Coast, buoyed by a dream start to the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), is set to face a formidable challenge from Nigeria as they strive to continue their journey towards becoming the first host nation to lift the trophy since Egypt in 2006.

The Ivorian side, led by coach Jean-Louis Gasset, showcased their mettle with a 2-0 victory over Guinea Bissau, avoiding the ignominy of becoming the first host nation to lose their opener in this century.

Entering the clash with high spirits and a solid recent form, Ivory Coast has lost just one of their last 11 matches, securing seven wins and three draws.

Their last four victories, each with multi-goal margins, underscore the team’s offensive prowess, while the ability to keep clean sheets adds a layer of concern for their opponents, Nigeria, who need a win to avoid the risk of an early exit from the tournament.

Nigeria, three-time AFCON winners, faced an unexpected setback with a shock 1-1 draw against Equatorial Guinea in their opening game.

Only a Victor Osimhen header spared their blushes, and they now understand that anything less than a victory against Ivory Coast could jeopardize their tournament journey, putting them at risk of an early group stage exit for the first time since 1982.

The historical head-to-head record between these two African powerhouses is closely contested, with Nigeria slightly trailing (W8, D10, L9).

Given the competitive nature of their previous AFCON encounters, with none settled by more than a single-goal margin in the last six meetings, fans can anticipate a tightly contested affair.

Ivory Coast captain Franck Kessie, extending his goal-contributing streak, and Nigeria’s Ademola Lookman, maintaining impressive form, are poised to play crucial roles in this eagerly anticipated showdown.

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