Okocha visits Super Eagles ahead of crunch Ivory Coast clash

Nigerian football icon Jay-Jay Okocha paid a visit to the Super Eagles to motivate them ahead of their crucial game against hosts Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2023).

Having endured a false start to the tournament following a 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea in their opening Group A game, Jose Peseiro’s side needs an improved result against the host nation on Thursday, January 18.

Despite being among the favourites to lift the AFCON, Nigeria will go into the game against Ivory Coast as underdogs, with the Elephants already having three points in the bag after a comfortable victory over Guinea-Bissau last time out.

Okocha visited Nigeria’s camp to motivate the players ahead of the big game. In videos that have been shared on the Super Eagles’ social media pages, the former PSG and Bolton star is seen interacting with the players and coach Peseiro.

‘Super Eagles have to beat the best’

The Super Eagles face hosts Ivory Coast in a crunch tie
Abidjan, Elfenbeinkueste, 13.01.2024: Seko Mohamed Fofana (Ivory Coast) waehrend des Spiels der TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations – Group A zwischen Ivory Coast vs Guinea-Bissau im Alassane Ouattara Stadion am 13. January 2024 in Abidjan, Elfenbeinkueste. (Foto von Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images) Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 13.01.2024: Seko Mohamed Fofana (Ivory Coast) during the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations – Group A match between Ivory Coast vs Guinea-Bissau at Alassane Ouattara Stadium on January 13, 2024 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images) . – Photo by Icon Sport

Meanwhile, in an interview with CAF, Okocha described the upcoming game as a difficult test for Nigeria but noted that the Super Eagles have what it takes to beat Ivory Coast.

The 50-year-old also urged Peseiro and his boys to relish playing in such big games, adding that to win the AFCON, you have to beat the best teams.

“Every match is difficult but when you play the host country, it is even more difficult,” Okocha stated.

“But, of course, the beauty of football is that if you want to be champions, you have to win against the best. And as we know, in football, every match is difficult.

“If you are well prepared, you have a chance of winning your match. But, we Nigerians, we know that it will be a difficult match but also, we believe that we have enough potential to be able to win this match.”

Okocha has high hopes for Osimhen at AFCON

The 1994-AFCON winner also revealed his expectations of superstar striker Victor Osimhen at the ongoing tournament.

Although Osimhen scored in Nigeria’s 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea last Sunday, the Napoli striker was also culpable for missing a number of gilt-edged chances.

Okocha believes there is more to come from the reigning CAF Footballer of the Year and urged his Super Eagles teammates to make the effort to find the striker.

“We know that Victor Osimhen is a world-class goalscorer, a very great player. He needs the services of his team and I believe he got them in this first match. It's not all the time that we see him miss clear opportunities,” Okocha said.

“I think he is eager to correct his mistakes and with him, we have hope and we believe in him because we know he is capable of shining in any competition.”

Nigeria are heading into the game against Ivory Coast on the back of a four-game winless run, while the hosts are unbeaten in their last seven matches.

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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.