Peseiro, Sanusi and Other Super Eagles Unsung Heroes As Nigeria Reach AFCON 2023 Final

Peseiro, Sanusi and Other Super Eagles Unsung Heroes As Nigeria Reach AFCON 2023 Final

Elijah Odetokun
updated at February 9, 2024 at 10:32 AM
In this article:
Ahmed Musa logo
A. Musa
Sivasspor logoFNigeria logo
Zaidu Sanusi logo
Z. Sanusi
FC Porto logoDNigeria logo
Frank Onyeka logo
F. Onyeka
Brentford logoMNigeria logo
Kenneth Omeruo logo
K. Omeruo
Kasimpasa logoDNigeria logo
Alex Iwobi logo
A. Iwobi
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Semi Ajayi logo
S. Ajayi
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Nigeria logo
CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo
  • Nigeria beat South Africa on penalties to reach AFCON 2023 final
  • The Super Eagles will face hosts Ivory Coast in the final on Sunday
  • Some players have not gotten enough credit for their contributions

Not many Nigerians gave the Super Eagles the chance to reach the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations going into the tournament, but they won the fans' faith as the competition progressed.

The three-time champions are through to the final, where they will play hosts Ivory Coast after dispatching Bafana Bafana of South Africa in a tense semi-final.

Jose Peseiro, Victor Osimhen, Nigeria, Angola, AFCON 2023, Ivory Coast.
Super Eagles boss Jose Peseiro passing instructions to Victor Osimhen during Nigeria's 1-0 win over Angola. Photo by Issouf Sanogo.
Source: Getty Images

Players like William Troost-Ekong, Victor Osimhen, Ademola Lookman, and Stanley Nwabali have deservedly been praised, but others have gone unnoticed.

Sports Brief looks at five unsung heroes in the Eagles team.

Super Eagles’ unsung heroes

1. Jose Peseiro

The Portuguese manager was under heavy scrutiny by Nigerians, with many wanting him sacked before the tournament. Despite the challenges, he has masterminded the journey to the final, yet some fans still want him out after the tournament. Under challenging circumstances, he has delivered.

Per ESPN, he took a pay cut and was given a target of the semi-final before his contract was extended, which he has fulfilled.

2. Zaidu Sanusi

The Porto full-back has been rightfully criticised for his poor attacking instinct at this tournament, but it took his absence for fans to realise what he offers to the team defensively. He is a natural left-back, playing the wing-back role, which he has struggled in.

3. Frank Onyeka

It was a big blow to Peseiro's plans when Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi missed out due to injury. He left big boots to fill, but the Brentford star has slotted in seamlessly. His performances have earned him the nickname “the tank”.

4. Ahmed Musa

The Governor, as he is popularly referred to, has yet to play a minute at this tournament, yet he has proved pivotal to the team. Many Nigerians wanted him dropped, but his leadership behind the scenes has been praised around the team. He has been seen on the team bus leading motivating songs.

Not many senior players would be benched and not cause a rift in the dressing room. He was part of the squad that won the country's last AFCON in 2013 and could win his second, becoming the only player to do so alongside Kenneth Omeruo.

5. Semi Ajayi

The Championship defender has hardly put a foot wrong at this tournament, contributing to a three-man defence alongside captain Troost-Ekong and Calvin Bassey. His height has helped him deal with aerial threats.

Honourable mentions: Alex Iwobi and Kenneth Omeruo.

Super Eagles stars born outside Nigeria

Sports Brief reported on six Super Eagles stars born outside Nigeria, with one-third of the 629 players at AFCON 2023 born outside the continent they represent.

Nigeria have six stars born in the diaspora, five of which were either born in or grew up in London, with Ekong being born in the Netherlands.

Elijah Odetokun photo
Elijah Odetokun
Elijah Odetokun is Reuters-trained journalist with three years of experience having previously worked at Daily Times Nigeria, OmaSports and El Futbolero.