Victor Osimhen: Analysing Super Eagles Star’s Performance at AFCON 2023 After Final Loss

Victor Osimhen: Analysing Super Eagles Star’s Performance at AFCON 2023 After Final Loss

Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe
February 15, 2024 at 12:41 PM
In this article:
Victor Osimhen logo
V. Osimhen
Napoli logoFNigeria logo
Nigeria logo
CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo
Ademola Lookman logo
A. Lookman
Atalanta logoFNigeria logo
Super Eagles logo
Super Eagles
South Africa
  • Victor Osimhen narrowly missed out on AFCON glory with Nigeria
  • His Nigerian team lost to Ivory Coast in the cup final last Sunday
  • Here's an analysis of his overall performance in the competition

Victor Osimhen entered the recently concluded 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations as the reigning Best Footballer on the continent, carrying a hefty weight of expectations on his shoulders.

Despite putting in commendable performances, the Nigerian superstar acknowledges that his overall display at the 34th edition of the AFCON fell short of the lofty expectations set for him.

Victor Osimhen, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, AFCON, final, analysis
Victor Osimhen played an integral role in Nigeria's route to the 2023 AFCON final. Photo by Visionhaus.
Source: Getty Images

Sports Brief scrutinises the performance of the 25-year-old striker, known for his distinctive mask, who narrowly missed out on claiming the ultimate prize as Nigeria succumbed to Ivory Coast in a captivating final showdown.

Defensive contribution

At the 2023 AFCON, Osimhen demonstrated a different dimension of his skill set, showcasing an all-action performance throughout Nigeria's journey to the final.

Under the tactical guidance of Jose Peseiro, the 25-year-old assumed a more defensive role, prioritising defensive duties over attacking prowess.

Following Peseiro's strategic direction, Victor primarily focused on tracking back, pressing opponents relentlessly from the front, a demanding task that consumed a considerable amount of his energy.

Engaging in tackles, interceptions, and pivotal defensive duels, he played a crucial role in bolstering the team's defensive solidity, adhering to Peseiro's defensive-oriented game plan emphasising compactness.

Osimhen's exceptional work rate, physicality, and disruptive presence posed a significant challenge for opposing defenders, establishing him as a vital asset for the Super Eagles.

Addressing Osimhen's influence within the squad and his importance to the team, Peseiro remarked as cited by All Nigeria Soccer, ahead of the AFCON final:

"If you watch the matches, he fights for us, he doesn't play like a star, works and defends."
"He attacks, fights the opponents, he opens spaces for us. He does maximum sacrifice for the team.
"He does the best every day because he knows he's an important player, for that he suffers many fouls, pressure and stress but he knows our team, captains, and everybody helps him."

Total team play

As previously mentioned, Peseiro's tactical approach significantly impacted the offensive capabilities of his team, particularly affecting the roles of the attacking trio comprising Osimhen, Moses Simon/Samuel Chukwueze, Osimhen, and Ademola Lookman.

These forwards were burdened with additional defensive responsibilities due to Peseiro's strategy.

The midfield, responsible for linking defence to attack, was predominantly tasked with defensive duties, with Alex Iwobi being the sole attacking-minded player deployed in the central midfield.

Peseiro opted for additional defensive cover by fielding Frank Onyeka and Alhassan Yusuf alongside Iwobi.

Consequently, the players found themselves overly engaged in defensive battles, limiting their involvement in attacking endeavours and often relying on the swift pace of players like Simon/Chukwueze and Lookman to generate offensive opportunities.

This setup resulted in Osimhen receiving minimal service from both midfield and the flanks, leading to his limited goal contributions of only one goal and one assist throughout the competition.

However, despite the scarcity of chances, Osimhen played a pivotal role in winning two penalties converted by William Troost-Ekong against Ivory Coast and South Africa, as well as forcing an own goal against Equatorial Guinea.

Overindulgence (complain) and antics

While the Napoli hitman received praise for his tireless work ethic and overall contribution to the team, the current African Footballer of the Year also faced criticism for his excessive involvement.

Having become the first African to claim the Serie A top scorer title last season, Osimhen's fiery demeanour was evident throughout the tournament.

He often found himself embroiled in heated confrontations, notably clashing with an Ivorian defender during the AFCON final match.

While his passion is undeniable, it occasionally proved detrimental as his relentless pursuit of every duel made him a target for opposing defenders seeking to disrupt his focus.

Furthermore, Osimhen's tendency to engage in unnecessary complaints, feign injuries, and waste time on the ground detracted from his overall effectiveness on the field.

These actions, whether intentional or not, drained his energy reserves, potentially contributing to his reduced goal output and subpar conversion rate despite his numerous attempts on goal.


Ultimately, in football, goals reign supreme. As a striker, the primary responsibility is to find the back of the net consistently, and given Osimhen's reputation, much of Nigeria's goal-scoring burden rested on his shoulders.

However, despite his pedigree and past successes with Napoli, Osimhen struggled to replicate his club form in the 2023 AFCON.

While he did manage to score once against Equatorial Guinea and provide an assist for Lookman's goal against Cameroon, per Transfermarkt, his overall contribution in front of goal fell short of expectations.

Despite being lauded for his unwavering passion, Victor's performance was marred by missed opportunities and wastefulness amid some of his goals were unfortunately chopped off by VAR.

Whether due to powerful but inaccurate shots or technical errors, he squandered several promising chances that he would typically convert with ease.

Rating: 6/10

Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe photo
Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe
Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe is a Ligue 1, Bundesliga, and La Liga editor with five-year experience. He previously worked with Sports Corna and 360SportsGH.