AFCON 2024: Nigeria predicted lineup vs Ivory Coast – could Iheanacho make first start?

Nigeria are now just one game away from being crowned champions of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024), as they prepare to face hosts Ivory Coast in the final on Sunday, February 11.

The Super Eagles have done everything right up to this point, going on an unbeaten run that has also seen them impressively keep four clean sheets in the tournament.

Jose Peseiro’s side were the better team when Nigeria came up against Ivory Coast during the group stage, with William Troost-Ekong’s penalty making the difference.

Nigeria vs South Africa AFCON 2024
Photo by Icon Sport

The final, however, could be a different proposition altogether, as the hosts have vastly improved since that defeat to the Super Eagles earlier in the tournament.

The Elephants looked set to exit the AFCON when they were battered 4-0 by Equatorial Guinea in their final Group A game.

However, Lady Luck smiled at them and results from the other groups helped them qualify to the knockout round as one of the four best third-placed teams.

With Jean-Louis Gasset being fired and Emerse Fae assuming the role of caretaker coach, Ivory Coast have been flying and are now on the verge of a third AFCON title.

Nigeria predicted XI vs Ivory Coast

For Peseiro and his charges to edge the hosts, they would have to make sure that they put together a flawless performance and it’s likely that the Portuguese will stick with the same players and the 4-3-3 formation that has so far served him well. 

There’s, however, the small conundrum of whether to start Kelechi Iheanacho or not after the Leicester City forward scored the winning penalty in the shootout against South Africa during the semi-finals

Ahead of Sunday’s AFCON final between Nigeria and Ivory Coast, here’s Afrik-Foot’s predicted lineup for the Super Eagles:

Stanley Nwabali

Outstanding throughout the tournament, he gave Nigerians a scare when he limped off during the round of 16 against Cameroon. However, Stanley Nwabali has since recovered to play the full throttle in both the quarter-final and semi-final.

The Chippa United shot-stopper also demonstrated his prowess from 12 yards when he saved two penalties in the shootout win over South Africa last time out and is expected to start in the final against Ivory Coast.

William Troost-Ekong

He has been one of the revelations of this year’s AFCON and is a potential candidate for the player of the tournament due to his brave performances at the back.

William Troost-Ekong has been playing through the pain but he doesn’t seem to be fazed and Peseiro will certainly be counting on him on Sunday.

Semi Ajayi

One half of Nigeria’s almost impenetrable defence, Semi Ajayi’s impressive performances seem to have gone under the radar due to the bigger statuses of those he’s playing beside.

However, the centre-back has been delivering top performances in the tournament and there’s no reason why he should not get the nod against Ivory Coast in the final.

Calvin Bassey

Calvin Bassey Super Eagles Power Rankings
Photo by Icon Sport

A player whose versatility has been frequently used as a weapon by Peseiro, Bassey is one of the un-droppable ones in the Super Eagles team.

The Fulham defender usually starts on the left side of a three-man defence but is often moved to left-back when Nigeria revert to a back-four and wants to close up shop. He is in line to start once again.

Ola Aina

A tireless workforce who can play on either side of the defence, Ola Aina deputised at the left wing-back position against South Africa after Zaidu Sanusi was ruled out due to injury.

However, Zaidu’s return means Aina could move back to his preferred position on the right when Nigeria face Ivory Coast.

Zaidu Sanusi

Has blown hot and cold in the AFCON and his inconsistency has often frustrated fans, but Sanusi was missed a bit during the semi-final game.

Aina struggled to deliver crosses from the left since he’s right-footed, and although attacking isn’t one of Sanusi’s strengths, he brings some balance to the team and is expected to make a return to the starting line-up after sitting out of the last game due to injury.

Frank Onyeka

Frank Onyeka seems to have the defensive midfield position on lockdown. His contributions have been as important as any other player and not even Alhassan Yusuf’s return from injury has managed to displace him from the starting line-up.

Alex Iwobi

Alex Iwobi looked knackered during the semi-final game against South Africa and was withdrawn after 63 minutes.

However, he’s too important to Peseiro’s setup and should recover in time to start against Ivory Coast in the final.

Ademola Lookman

Had a quiet game against Bafana Bafana, as compared to his explosive performances in the round of 16 and quarter-finals.

But Lookman remains Nigeria’s best right-winger and Peseiro will be hoping to see him regain his form on Sunday against the hosts, as he’s certain to start the game.

Moses Simon

Moses Simon’s direct competition in the team is Samuel Chukwueze but the AC Milan star has barely made an impact in the AFCON so far.

This means Simon is once again likely to get the nod in the final against Ivory Coast. The Nantes forward has had his moments and has played a key role for the Super Eagles thus far.

Victor Osimhen

It’s unknown whether Osimhen is fully fit for Sunday’s final, as he had to pass a late fitness test to feature in the semi-final against South Africa.

It was also evident that the Napoli striker was fatigued, which led to his substitution in extra time. However, he remains Nigeria’s best striker in the team and is sure to start in the final even if he’s half-fit.  

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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.