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AFCON 2023: What Jose Peseiro’s Nigeria Need to Do to Beat Ivory Coast in Final
- Nigeria will be the perceived favourites in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final
- They play an Ivory Coast side that has redeemed itself from the brink of elimination
- Sports Brief takes a look at some of the things Jose Peseiro's side will need to do in the game
One of Ahmed Musa or Serge Aurier will have the honours of lifting the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations title on February 11.
It will mark the end of a tournament that has seen Ivory Coast come from the literal jaws of death to redeem themselves in one of the most fascinating stories.
Nigeria, on the other hand, came into the tournament unfancied after a series of disappointing results. But armed with a resolute defence and a shrewd manager, the Super Eagles could move level with Ghana in terms of the number of AFCON titles won.
What Nigeria need to do to win AFCON 2023
Only 90 minutes separate them from glory. As previously broken down by Sports Brief, Nigeria are the 2023 AFCON favourites, but they will need to be on their toes on Sunday to ensure the fate that has befallen other heavyweights doesn't get to them.
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We take a look at the possible ways Peseiro will need to look at to get better of Emerse Fae and the home crowd.
1. Deal with the 12th man
Let's start with the home crowd. Playing at home doesn't necessarily often translate to success. In fact, you will have to go back to 2006 for the last time the host (Egypt) won the title.
Be that as it may, and having been given a second chance at this, it is highly unlikely that the 60,000-seater Alassane Ouattara Stadium won't be filled to the brim with a sea of orange.
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Nigeria will have to find their tempo and exert their influence in such a hostile ground. Scoring first is always seen as a way of quietening down the home support. However, as statistics show, this might fail to work against Ivory Coast as they have come from behind to win two of their three knockout games. Fae's side thrive when they are a goal down.
The Super Eagles will, therefore, need to control proceedings by dominating possession. It will be a tall order given that the hosts have averaged the second-highest possession of all the 24 teams at this year's tournament. Depriving the hosts possession allows you to play the game and avoid unnecessary extra pressure from the crowd.
2. Ivory Coast's 'non-existent' defending
The Elephants' defence hasn't been outrightly calamitous (save for the Equatorial Guinea game) but has been breached multiple times, which would be good news for the Nigeria attack.
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The clean sheet against DR Congo was the first since their opening game against Guinea-Bissau. Yahia Fofana has faced 17 shots (excluding penalties), conceding seven goals. They have also given away two penalties, one against Sunday's opponents and one against Mali, which Yahia Fofana saved.
Nigeria have the second-most shots on target of every team in the tournament. Their conversion rate hasn't been as spectacular, but Ivory Coast won't want Fofana to be pelted with more shots. You never know when Ademola Lookman or Victor Osimhen might turn one into a goal.
3. Neutralise Franck Kessie
Much had been said about Nigeria's midfield, or lack thereof, before the tournament began. But somehow, even after Wilfried Ndidi's injury, Peseiro has found a working system.
Against Ivory Coast, they will come up against a rejuvenated Franck Kessie, who took being dropped to the bench against Senegal personally. Since then, he has chipped in with important contributions, capping it off with a Man of the Match display in the semi-final.
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Fae's strategy revolves around the Al-Ahli man picking up the ball from deep before driving forward into the final third to make the pass. He sits second in the whole tournament in terms of the fouls won for his side, per Fbref's stats.
Stop Kessie, and you have a good chance of controlling Ivory Coast's game plan.
4. Limit the spaces behind
To their credit, Nigeria's defence has been the best. The three-man approach adopted by Peseiro after the Equatorial Guinea draw has only been breached by a Teboho Mokoena penalty.
But as South Africa valiantly showed in the semi-finals, the gaps, especially the side Semi Ajayi plays from, can be exploited. Bafana Bafana's second half had the perfect blueprint, save for lack of goals, of any team that dreams of beating Nigeria.
They had nine goal attempts after the break and could easily have won it had Khuliso Mudau been more clinical right at the end.
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Peseiro will need to rectify these gaps against the hosts. Ajayi needs to stay close to his marked target or play close to William Troost-Ekong. Max Gradel showed impressive work rate against DR Congo and won't hesitate to provide a couple of chances to the lurking Sebastien Haller.
Can Nigeria walk the favourites talk and win a fourth title?