Nigeria missed the opportunity to win their fourth AFCON title at the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024), thwarted by a spirited performance from the host nation Ivory Coast.
Super Eagles skipper William Troost-Ekong had given the Nigerians the lead before the interval but Franck Kessie and Sebastien Haller scored in the second half to win the game for Ivory Coast.
The Elephants produced some exciting football, and there were both positive and negative signs noted in the game.
The victory over Nigeria ensured that the Ivorians would secure their third AFCON title in history.
Ivory Coast had no fear and took the game to Nigeria
Playing against a star-studded Super Eagles side at the Alhassane Ouattara stadium, it would have been understandable if Emerse Fae's side played within themselves.
The Ivorians passed the ball around with confidence and created a few chances, taking advantage of Nigeria's decision not to press high in the game; Simon Adingra and Sébastien Haller were again linking up well and causing all sorts of problems for the Nigerian defence.
Passive Super Eagles
Even when the Super Eagles went 1-0 up through Ekong in the 38th minute, it was difficult to argue that they had played well.
Peseiro's side did look sharp when they transitioned into attack in the opening stages, but they became far too passive and invited Ivory Coast onto them as the half wore on. Given the quality in the Elephants’ ranks, it was no surprise to see them draw level and then pull ahead in the second period.
The intensity and discipline which characterised Super Eagles performances against Cameroon, Angola and South Africa was conspicuously absent.
Nigeria struggle to contain Ivory Coast in wide areas
The Super Eagles were regularly outmanoeuvred in wide areas. Ivory Coast full-backs Ghislain Konan and Serge Aurier were invited forward and rarely engaged by Calvin Bassey and Ola Aina, who often found themselves caught in two-versus-one situations as Nigeria's central midfielders tried in vain to shuffle over in time.
Simon Adingra and Max Graddel created a lot of problems for the Nigerian backline throughout the game.
Ndicka excellent in heart of Ivory Coast backline
When the Super Eagles did get into promising positions, Evan Ndicka was almost invariably there to thwart them. The AS Roma defender was terrific in the heart of the backline, reading the game brilliantly and making a number of vital interventions, whether through blocks or clearances.
Ndicka did not get much of a chance to showcase his ball-playing abilities, but he did all he could to keep Nigeria at bay.