AFCON 2023: Dubai Coach Explains Why Nigeria’s Injuries in Ivory Coast Could Be Become a Blessing

AFCON 2023: Dubai Coach Explains Why Nigeria’s Injuries in Ivory Coast Could Be Become a Blessing

Ero Samson
updated at March 5, 2024 at 6:46 PM
In this article:
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Super Eagles
South Africa
Victor Okoh Boniface logo
V. O. Boniface
Bayer Leverkusen logoFNigeria logo
Sadiq Umar logo
S. Umar
Real Sociedad logoFNigeria logo
Kelechi Iheanacho logo
K. Iheanacho
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Bayer Leverkusen
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Real Sociedad
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Leicester City
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  • Nigeria heralded the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast with an astute defensive approach
  • The Super Eagles surged to the final of the showpiece despite facing injuries to a flurry of attackers
  • A Dubai-based coach has detailed how the injuries faced by the Nigerian team were a blessing in disguise

The lead-up to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast was marked by a series of setbacks for the Nigerian team, as key attacking talents were forced to withdraw from the final squad due to injuries just days before the tournament began.

Bayer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface, sustained a groin injury, while Real Sociedad’s Sadiq Umar, was sidelined with a calf problem.

The injury woes continued during the tournament, with other attacking players, such as Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, only making cameo appearances in the semi-final.

Nigeria, Super Eagles, Osimhen, CAF, AFCON, Boniface.
Victor Osimhen reacts after picking up an injury during the Africa Cup of Nations final between Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Image: Franck Fife.
Source: Getty Images

Faced with these challenges, coach, Jose Peseiro, had to adapt and opted for a defensive 5-4-1 formation, which is a departure from Nigeria's usual attacking style.

Surprisingly, the players embraced this change remarkably well, going on to demonstrate their defensive prowess. To illustrate the effectiveness of this tactical shift, the Super Eagles went an impressive 490 minutes without conceding a goal en route to the tournament final.

Nonetheless, looking back on the AFCON experience, Dubai-based football coach, Ayere Sylvester, has offered valuable insights, suggesting that the injuries, albeit unfortunate, may have inadvertently benefited Nigerian football in the long run.

Coach Ayere on Nigeria's injury woes

In a conversation with Sports Brief, the Fleetwood United Dubai U23 manager reflected on the Nations Cup events, highlighting how the injuries to several Nigerian attackers could be a blessing in disguise for the national team.

The coach pointed out that if all attacking players had been fit, the Super Eagles might have been exposed defensively, as seen in the games leading up to the tournament.

"If we had all our attacking talents available, we would be compelled to play our attacking style, leaving Nigeria very vulnerable in defence," he explained.
"It's not wise to play attacking football when your defence is weak. Before the AFCON, Nigeria conceded easy goals to teams like Saudi Arabia and Guinea. We struggled to keep a clean sheet."
"However, the injuries forced Peseiro to adopt a more defensive approach, showcasing a side of Nigerian football we haven't seen in a long time. This formation at the AFCON means Nigeria can effectively absorb the attacking pressure from any highly ranked opponent we may face in the future," he concluded.

The sentiments expressed by the Fleetwood United U23 manager echo those of some Nigerian football enthusiasts who are pleased with the team's sudden adaptation to a formation that deviates from the nation's traditional footballing philosophy.

Nigeria legends submit names to succeed Peseiro

According to another report by Sports Brief, a group of retired Nigerian footballers have put forward a list of potential replacements for Peseiro.

The report suggests that these former players are advocating for the appointment of a local coach over a foreign manager.

Ero Samson photo
Ero Samson
Samson Ero is a sports journalist with a track record of over five years in the Nigerian media industry. He graduated from Nigerian Institute of Journalism (2021-2023).