On March 27, 2023, the Super Eagles won 1-0 in the return leg in Bissau, though, and they made amends

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One of the most boring and one-sided games Nigeria’s Super Eagles have ever played was the AFCON 2023 final. Jose Peseiro’s blatant ineptitude and tactical rigidity were exposed, and sadly, his unpleasant habit of fielding one striker up front and packing the back with several defenders was on display for the whole world to see.

He was defeated in the championship game by the youthful, dynamic Emerson Fae, who accomplished a remarkable feat with the surging Elephants, the Ivory Coast national team. It is a remarkable accomplishment for a team that, following their 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea on January 22, was almost eliminated from the group stage.

Despite being hailed as pre-tournament favorites, many astute Nigerians did not anticipate the Super Eagles to get past the tournament’s group stage. It was satisfying in and of itself that they advanced to the championship game of the fiercest AFCON competition since the competition’s founding in 1957. Nevertheless, coach Peseiro ruined the drive with unfavorable strategies as the Super Eagles sat back, taking all that was thrown at them, instead of riding the wave of momentum and seizing the opportunity to win his first coaching trophy. But when the pressure increased to an uncomfortable, severe, and continuous level, the cookies disintegrated. The Eagles’ defense capitulated.

Negative strategies could be effective in some situations, but once a coach is as rigid as Peseiro was, any astute coach can put him to shame. Peseiro’s defensive formations, which were heavy on defense and weak on offense with little focus on the midfield, were stiff and predictable throughout the AFCON. This was the main reason behind Osimhen’s difficulties during the tournament. The 2023 Africa Footballer of the Year did not perform to his full potential as a result of the coach’s choice to use Victor Osimhen as a lone striker.

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The Napoli striker was forced to wander the field without the ball as a result of the coach’s cautious strategies, which hurt Osimhen. In pursuit of supplies, Osimhen fought, ran, jumped, and struggled with his large size. No supply lines were present. Nigeria’s offensive and defense were unrelated. The defenders always forced him to fight for long, meaningless balls. He occasionally retreated to pick up loose balls from Nigeria’s half. How is a man supposed to span the whole pitch? How is it possible for a striker of Osimhen’s caliber to participate in eight AFCON games and only score one goal? In fact, the Portuguese strategist may have de-marketed the Osimhen name.

For their part, the Ivorians were revitalized, energizing, and powerful. They knew that there were a lot on the line when they played the match of their lives. They had a strong sense of nationalism and understood that victory would bring them good fortune. And they attacked it.

The Super Eagles’ loss against the Ivory Coast’s Elephants was not unusual; rather, what was unusual was how the setback was handled. It was a terrible way to represent African football, much alone Nigeria. It was extremely embarrassing that, in addition to the large audience on television across the world, former manager of Arsenal and current FIFA Chief of Global Football Development Arsene Wenger, as well as Presidents Giovani Infantino and Patrice Mosepe of the Confederation of African Football, were present. Everyone might have been rather dissatisfied with what Nigeria has to offer.

Peseiro made some strange decisions that left us perplexed. His choice to shun Terem Moffi and forward Kelechi Iheanacho of Leicester City was unsatisfactory. He utilized the same forwards in every game; in fact, he employed some of them until they were completely worn out. The outcome made this clear. The coach from Ivory Coast said it all. “We went after the Super Eagles in the second half because I saw they were tired.” It was profitable. They cut the Eagles’ wings and hammered away at the weary Nigerian defense. Many of the players Peseiro brought to Ivory Coast came back unharmed.

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The fact that some Nigerians have jumped on the “Peseiro must stay” bandwagon is unexpected. It is unfortunate that those who have benefited from the Portuguese coach’s persistent presence could want him to stay on as the Super Eagles coach, even if it means harming Nigerian football in the process.

Peseiro has a lackluster track record with Nigeria. Everyone can see what he accomplished in his first year on the squad. Peseiro played nine matches in all, winning three and losing six. The Super Eagles’ five friendlies ended in losses for the coach.

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