The 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the continent’s premier football championship, is set to begin today in Cote d’Ivoire, drawing the focus of the sports world to Africa.
24 teams, including Nigeria’s Super Eagles, will compete against one another from now until February 11, 2024, to win the most valuable continental football trophy in Africa.
The Super Eagles will take on Equatorial Guinea in their opening game tomorrow. They are in Group A with the hosts Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau. Four days later, on January 22, they will play their last Group A matchup against Guinea-Bissau. They will also play Cote d’Ivoire.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) upped the AFCON Prize money by over 40% prior to the much anticipated kickoff, meaning that the winner would get $7 million. Additionally, the runners-up will get $4 million. The two semi-finalists will split $2.5 million each, while the quarter-finalist will take home $1.3 million.
In the hopes that the prize money will promote the growth of football in Africa, CAF President Dr. Patrice Motsepe previously said that during the past two years, CAF has raised the prize money for its major tournaments, such as the AFCON.
The coach from Nigeria has had a difficult time. The skill and synergy that great teams have is lacking from his squad. Peseiro’s task has become more challenging due to late injuries to several important players, along with a midfield devoid of imagination and a persistent custodian dilemma. Peseiro is therefore confronted with a daunting lack of solid players, such as Taiwo Awoniyi, Victor Boniface, and Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi, in addition to his alleged technical deficiencies. Today, Kelech Iheanacho, a fellow Leicester City player who is currently recovering from an injury, is anticipated to join the group. Rumour has it that Sadiq Umar was also hurt. Surely, this is enough to make the coach unsettle.
Some Nigerians feel that the three-time African champions, the Super Eagles can still give Nigeria a good showing in Ivory Coast. There are still many excellent players on the team. The Super Eagles should be able to defeat Equatorial Guinea tomorrow and go undefeated in a group that also includes Guinea-Bissau and hosts the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire because they have one of the best strikers in Europe, Victor Osimhen, the CAF Male Player of the Year, Terem Moffi of Nice (a late replacement for Victor Boniface), Samuel Chukwueze of AC Milan, Moses Simon of Nantes, Alex Iwobi of Fulham, Calvin Bassey of Fulham, Ola Aina of Nottingham Forest, and other players in their ranks.
Jose Peseiro now has the responsibility to demonstrate that he is capable pulling off the unexpected by having a successful game with the Super Eagles.