Nigeria midfielder Alex Iwobi has expressed admiration for his teammate Victor Osimhen while reassuring fans that the Super Eagles are not feeling the pressure despite the 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea in their first Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2023) match.
Iwobi, who started in the Equatorial Guinea game, emphasized the team's belief in Osimhen's goal-scoring abilities and praised his hunger for success.
In the opening match, Nigeria found themselves trailing as Ivan Salvador netted a surprise goal for Nzalang National after capitalizing on some defensive lapses. However, Osimhen rose to the occasion, scoring the equalizer from an Ademola Lookman cross, immediately after the restart.
While Osimhen could have added more goals but wasted chances, Iwobi highlighted the team's positive outlook and confidence in their star striker.
Iwobi: Osimhen is more than our star striker
Speaking about Osimhen, Iwobi said, “There is no pressure on us; we had many chances (against Equatorial Guinea) to score. He (Victor) knows he could have scored more as well.”
“He's the best striker in Africa and one of the best strikers in the world. For me, it's not just the goals he scores, but the hunger he continues to show. He's a passionate player who is on the front line and always presses, so if he presses, it motivates us to press as well.” Iwobi added.
For Iwobi, Osimhen's impact goes beyond scoring goals. His passion, hunger, and relentless effort he brings to the frontline motivate the entire team.
Nigeria's AFCON 2023 chances
With the draw against Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria cannot afford to lose against hosts Ivory Coast in Thursday's encounter if they aim to progress to the knockout stages. On the other hand, a victory for the Elephants would secure their qualification for the Round of 16 with a game to spare.
The Super Eagles will receive a boost with the availability of Terem Moffi, who joined the team after the Equatorial Guinea match, and Kelechi Iheanacho, who has resumed full training. However, there is uncertainty around the participation of midfielder Alhassan Yusuf, arguably Nigeria’s standout performer against Nzalang National, as he exited the previous game due to injury.
As Nigeria gears up for a crucial clash against the Ivory Coast, Iwobi's words reflect a calm and focused mindset within the team setup. He emphasized their belief in Osimhen and the collective determination to secure a positive result and advance in the tournament.
The Super Eagles will look to turn their chances into goals unlike their profligate showing in the opening game and deliver a performance that is worth a spot in the knockout phase of the competition.