AFCON 2024: Nigeria predicted lineup vs Angola – No place for returning Yusuf, Iheanacho?

Nigeria are bracing up for a must-win game against Angola in the quarter-finals of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) in the Ivory Coast.

The Super Eagles have so far made a massive statement in the tournament and remain unbeaten going into the last eight clash against the Palancas Negras.

The irony, though, is that Angola are also unbeaten in four games in AFCON and are also the highest scorers in the tournament so far.

But Nigeria have had a tougher route to this stage than the opponent they’ll be facing on Friday, February 2.

While Jose Peseiro’s side has already seen off the likes of Ivory Coast and Cameroon, Angola’s toughest opponent thus far has been Burkina Faso.

Although the Palancas Negras are underdogs, Peseiro is expected to approach the game with the same seriousness as he has in the previous matches.

To this end, the Portuguese is likely to stick to the 3-4-3 formation that has so far served him well in the tournament. And while Kelechi Iheanacho is back in training, it is hard to see him displacing any of the starting players, who have all been very impressive.

There is also the return of Alhassan Yusuf, the highly-rated midfielder who started in the Super Eagles’ opening group game against Equatorial Guinea.

The Royal Antwerp man hasn’t played in Nigeria’s last three matches due to injury and his position has been taken by the imperious Frank Onyeka.

As we build up to Friday’s game between Nigeria and Angola, here’s Afrik-Foot’s predicted lineup for the Super Eagles.

Stanley Nwabali

Nwabali Super Eagles
Photo by Icon Sport

Missed the final 10 minutes of Nigeria’s 2-0 victory against Cameroon in the round of 16 after suffering a ligament injury, and was replaced by Francis Uzoho.

However, the Chippa United goalkeeper’s injury isn’t as bad as first feared and he is expected to recover in time to start against Angola.

William Troost-Ekong

The defender is another injury doubt for the game against Angola, but he’s already proved during the tournament that he can play through the pain, as he did against Cameroon.

The 30-year-old is still carrying an injury he picked up against Ivory Coast during the group phase but he should be available to feature against the Palancas Negras.

Semi Ajayi

The West Bromwich Albion defender has been a mainstay in Jose Peseiro’s side, especially after the Portuguese coach decided to switch to a three-back system.

He has barely put a foot wrong all tournament and should keep his place for the encounter against Angola.

Calvin Bassey

A man-of-the-match contender in the victory against Cameroon, the Fulham defender has attained undroppable status in the Nigerian team.

His versatility has also often allowed Peseiro to switch between a back three and a back four during games and he is expected to command a starting role once again.

Ola Aina

He’s been one of Nigeria’s best players at the AFCON so far, combining defensive solidity with attacking verve on the right side.

It’s no fluke that Aina has started every game for the Super Eagles in Ivory Coast and his impressive performances mean he is likely to get the nod again against Angola.

Zaidu Sanusi

Hasn’t particularly impressed at the tournament, with question marks all over his output. But Peseiro appears to trust him, which is why no player on the bench has been allowed to challenge Sanusi for his spot.

Should Peseiro stick with the three-back system, Sanusi will likely start again, as he’s the only tried and tested player in the left-wing position.

Frank Onyeka

An unsung hero of the Super Eagles, the midfielder was thrust into the starting line-up following Yusuf Alhassan’s injury after the opening group game against Equatorial Guinea.

Onyeka has since made the position his own, with his timely tackles and effective game-breaking ability helping Nigeria to thrive in the middle of the park. Yusuf may have returned, but Onyeka’s performances have earned him the right to start again against Angola.

Alex Iwobi

Despite facing criticisms in the past, Iwobi has been unplayable in this AFCON. The Fulham midfielder has been a workaholic in the middle of the park for the Super Eagles.

He may not have scored or assisted yet in the tournament but no other player in the team offers what Iwobi does and that is why he should start the quarter-final game.

Ademola Lookman

The hero of Nigeria’s triumph over Cameroon in the round of 16, Lookman scored twice to down the Indomitable Lions.

Aside from Victor Osimhen, he is the next most potent forward in the team and the Super Eagles will need his magic feet against Angola.

Samuel Chukwueze

He has been in and out of the team but Moses Simon did not impress much when he was given the nod against Cameroon, which could mean Peseiro reshuffling his pack.

Against Angola, the only change might be Samuel Chukwueze replacing Simon in the starting line-up.

Victor Osimhen

He has not particularly enjoyed a fruitful tournament in terms of goals, but he delivered one of the most complete centre-forward performances against Cameroon.

With just one goal to his name in the AFCON, Osimhen will be looking to increase his tally in the AFCON when he faces Angola on Friday.  

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Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an African sports writer, with bylines on DW, Al Jazeera, World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.