AFCON 2023: Super Eagles make shaky start despite Osimhen strike

Nigeria's campaign at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2023) got off to a shaky start as the Super Eagles drew 1-1 with Equatorial Guinea at the Allasane Quattara Stadium in their first group game on Sunday.

The Super Eagles entered the game as favourites but left much to be desired, especially with their lacklustre finishing, which ultimately cost them three crucial points.

Nigeria dominated the early exchanges, with Victor Osimhen proving to be a challenging opponent for the Equatorial Guinea defence.

FC Porto’s Zaidu Sanusi had the first clear chance in the ninth minute after a Moses Simon cross, but he failed to place his shot on target with the net open.

Chances were scarce as both teams played cautiously, but in the 29th minute, Alex Iwobi sent a high ball to Ola Aina, who controlled brilliantly and crossed into the box. However, Osimhen's feeble header didn't trouble Equatorial Guinea goalkeeper Jesus Owono.

Nzalang National stun Super Eagles

The first half came alive when Equatorial Guinea took the lead.

After the Super Eagles failed to clear a loose ball in the area, Iban Edu capitalized on the mistake, took the ball, and calmly slotted past Stanley Nwabali to put his side ahead.

The lead didn’t last more than two minutes as Nigeria found the equalizer right after the restart. Ademola Lookman found space on the left to cross to Victor Osimhen, who headed into the net to draw Nigeria level.

Super Eagles AFCON 2023
Photo by Icon Sport

Super Eagles rue missed chances

The second half saw Nigeria taking the initiative. Sanusi had the first chance in the 53rd minute but opted to pass instead of taking a shot, allowing Owono to intercept with his feet.

Moments later, Osimhen and Aina tested Owono again, but the goalkeeper stood firm.

Osimhen had Nigeria’s best chance in the second half in the 75th minute after Alex Iwobi picked him out, but he blazed wide with the goalkeeper at his mercy, much to the consternation of Jose Peseiro on the touchline.

Nigeria created a few chances towards the end of the game, with Osimhen, Lookman, and Aribo all coming close, but Equatorial Guinea held on firm for a share of the spoils.

With this result, the Super Eagles face a herculean task ahead as they meet hosts Ivory Coast on Thursday, January 14, 2024, in the second group game.

Super Eagles starting line-up

Stanley Nwabali, Ola Aina, Zaidu Sanusi, Semi Ajayi, William Troost Ekong, Alhasssan Yusuf, Alex Iwobi, Frank Onyeka, Moses Simon, Ademola Lookman, Victor Osimhen

Equatorial Guinea starting line-up

Jesus Owono, Carlos Akapo, Basilio Ndong, Esteban Fernandez, Saul Coco, Federico Bicono, Jose Machin Dicombo, Jannick Buyla, Pablo Ganet, Iban Edu Salvador, Emilio Nsue

AFCON 2023: Super Eagles make shaky start despite Osimhen strike
Andrew Randa

Andrew Randa is a seasoned Africa sports journalist, and a former Media Officer for Nigeria's U-20 national team. He is widely acknowledged as an authority on the NPFL and African football, Randa is esteemed for his expertise in football content creation. Furthermore, he holds the distinction of being Nigeria's foremost sports kit designer and a trailblazer in the realm of sports graphics in Nigeria.