A busy evening of Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) quarter-final action saw the Super Eagles of Nigeria battling to 1-0 victory over the Palancas Negras of Angola at the Stade Félix-Houphouët-Boigny on Friday.
With most of the focus on who picks the ticket to the semifinals of the competition, Jose Peseiro’s men produced an assured display to record all that important victory.
The Super Eagles were far from their flowing best, especially in the second half, but they produced quality moments in the game and, in the end, ran out deserved winners.
Ademola Lookman scored in the first half to send Nigeria to the semi-finals.
Here, we look at where the Nigeria vs Angola game was won and lost.
Nigeria’s AFCON experience trumped Angola’s lack of belief
As good as the Angola were at times in the game, they didn’t go for the jugular at any point. It was easy to see Pedro Goncalves’ plan. Stay in the game and pounce at the right time just as they did against Namibia.
They (the Angolans) weren’t bad on the night but were too inexperienced to believe they were capable of beating the Super Eagles and it showed in most periods of the game.
Jose Peseiro will be delighted with his side’s performance going forward, particularly as they had to show a different side to their game.
Troost-Ekong kept Mabululu in his pocket
This match could have fared very differently.
And while the Super Eagles more than supplied the goods at the attacking end of the pitch, William Troost-Ekong deserves significant praise for the defensive performance provided, from an astute positional awareness to the speed at which he responded to Angola's attacks to his calm handling of forward Mabululu.
Not many players can claim to have kept the Angolan forward in their pocket during their career. The Nigerian skipper consistently snuffed out Angola’s relentless threats, reading the game brilliantly and making a number of vital interventions, whether through blocks or clearances.
By the time the second half reached its midway point, the Palancas Negras enjoyed the better part of possession and chances, but they hadn't truly threatened.
That was largely thanks to Troost-Ekong, whose strength and power were unrivalled throughout the match.
Lookman threatened and eventually found end product
Lookman was Nigeria’s biggest threat in the first half, the Atalanta man taking advantage of the space behind right-back Eddie Afonso by continually making penetrative runs both with and without the ball.
He was lively throughout the opening 45 minutes, but his end product let him down: at times, Lookman made the wrong decision, while on other occasions, his execution – in the form of either a shot or a cross – let him down.
When a big chance came his way before the interval, though, the winger made no mistake. Collecting a wonderfully disguised pass by Moses Simon, he showed great composure to slot the ball home.
Iwobi was special
Calm, assured and a leader. Three words you wouldn’t find yourself writing about Alex Iwobi, but on Friday he was all three and more. The talent has always been there for him but so often in big games it has been his mind which lets him down.
Not against the Palancas Negras though as he put in one of his best displays in the Super Eagles shirt. Classy on the ball and a terrier in defence, the crowd rose to stunning display from the Fulham man in the middle of the park.
So comfortable and aware was he on the ball, he was making the entire Angola side move to the beat of his drum.
He provided a reminder that he was a real weapon in Peseiro’s armoury when he outplayed the Angola midfield of Show, Fredy and Estrela.