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Nigeria and Ivory Coast’s AFCON 2023 Final Starting Lineups: Who Started in Their Group Stage Clash?
- Nigeria and Ivory Coast will lock horns in the AFCON 2023 final this coming Sunday
- The Super Eagles defeated South Africa, while the Elephants ousted DR Congo in the semis
- Nigeria and Ivory Coast faced each other in the group stage of this year's Africa Cup of Nations
And then there were two.
The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations will come to a close this coming Sunday, with former champions Nigeria and Ivory Coast locking horns in the final.
It is a rematch of their group stage match weeks earlier, which the Super Eagles won 1-0.
Sports Brief looks at the players who started in that encounter and how the two powerhouse teams have lined up since.
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Nigeria's starters vs. Ivory Coast
The Super Eagles lined up in a 3-4-3 formation against the Elephants last January 18, with Victor Osimhen leading the attack.
Ademola Lookman and Samuel Chukwueze supported the Napoli forward up front. Nigeria's midfield was composed of Zaidu Sanusi, Alex Iwobi, Frank Onyeka, and Ola Aina.
Calvin Bassey, William Troost-Ekong, and Semi Ajaya made up the back line for Nigeria, while keeper Stanley Nwabali got the start in goal.
The formation worked wonders for the Super Eagles, as they kept the Ivory Coast attack at bay the entire match. They pulled off a 1-0 victory, the first of their four clean sheets in this tournament.
How Super Eagles lined up in semis
Nine of the 11 players who started against Ivory Coast in the group stage were also handed starting positions in the semi-final match vs. South Africa.
Keeping his defence unchanged was a no-brainer for Jose Peseiro, given their excellent play in this competition. Calvin Bassey, William Troost-Ekong, and Semi Ajaya retained their starting places, as well as Stanley Nwabali, who was the hero in the penalty shootout.
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Alex Iwobi, Frank Onyeka, and Ola Aina remained part of Nigeria's midfield.
Victor Osimhen retained his starting spot despite suffering an abdominal injury days before the match, per ESPN.
Ademola Lookman, who scored three goals in the knockout games against Cameroon and Angola, was also part of the Nigerian attack.
Samuel Chukwueze, who started against the Elephants, was replaced by Moses Simon in attack in the semis. Zaidu Sanusi, who got the starting nod in the group game against Ivory Coast, was replaced by Bright Osayi-Samuel in midfield.
Ivory Coast's starters vs. Nigeria
The hosts lined up in a 4-3-3 formation against the Super Eagles in their match in the group stage, with Jean-Phillipe Krasso leading the attack.
Jeremie Boga and Christian Kouame supported the Red Star Belgrade forward up front. Ivory Coast's midfield was composed of Franck Kessie, Ibrahim Sangare, and Seko Fofana.
Ghislain Konan, Evan Ndicka, Ousmane Diomande, and Serge Aurier made up the back line for Ivory Coast, while keeper Yahia Fofana got the start in goal.
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That lineup didn't get the job done as they suffered a 1-0 loss to Nigeria.
How the Elephants lined up in semis
A lot has changed for Ivory Coast since that defeat. Emerse Fae is now the head coach of the Elephants, replacing Jean-Louis Gasset, who was sacked after their loss to Equatorial Guinea in the group stage.
The Elephants started with a different front three compared to their match against Ivory Coast. Sebastien Haller led their attack, with Simon Adingra and Max Gradel supporting him up front.
The decision to start Haller paid dividends for Ivory Coast as he scored the match-winner in the 65th minute. It has been a remarkable comeback for Haller, who underwent treatment for testicular cancer in July 2022, per the BBC.
Seko Fofana and Franck Kessie retained their starting positions in midfield, while Jean Michael Sari got the start instead of Ibrahim Sangare.
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Ghislain Konan and Evan Ndicka remained part of Ivory Coast's backline in the game against DR Congo. They were joined by Willy Boly and Wilfried Singo.
Yahia Fofana remained the team's starting goalkeeper and he delivered the goods, keeping a clean sheet in the semi-finals.
Nwabali shines vs. South Africa
Sports Brief recently reported on Nwabali's heroics in the semi-final against South Africa.
He saved two penalties in the shootout to send Nigeria to the AFCON final.
The Super Eagles are looking to win their fourth AFCON title this coming Sunday.