Super Eagles ‘can’t play the pretty football we want’ – Iwobi on AFCON 2024 pitches

Nigeria midfielder Alex Iwobi has suggested that the state of pitches at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) makes it difficult for teams to play free-flowing football.

According to him, the pitches were in good shape during the first round of matches but the quality of the grass has declined a bit after hosting more games.

Iwobi has been a key player for Nigeria at AFCON 2024 in Ivory Coast, where he started two out of their three group matches.

The Fulham midfielder was rested for the Super Eagles' final group game against Guinea-Bissau but is expected to assume his starting role when they face Cameroon in Round 16 on Saturday, January 27.

Iwobi compares AFCON 2024 pitches to Premier League

Having played all his life on the lush pitches littered across the Premier League, the 27-year-old said the pitches at AFCON 2024 sometimes make it difficult for teams to play beautiful football.

In an interview with Nigerian journalist Osasu Obayiuwana, Iwobi said the Super Eagles have had to change their tactics on occasions due to the nature of the pitches.

Super Eagles AFCON 2024
Photo by Icon Sport

“It’s not easy to maintain a good pitch. For the first game (against Equatorial Guinea) we had a good pitch. But the stadium has been used, the grass has been used and it’s not going to stay the same,” he said.

“Sometimes, we have to change our tactics, because we can’t play the pretty football we want to play. If it’s a problem for us, it’s a problem for the other team. It’s different from the Premier League, where 90% of the pitches are well looked after.”

Iwobi was on the score sheet the last time Nigeria faced Cameroon in the Round of 16 of the AFCON in 2019, as the Super Eagles recorded a 3-2 victory over their neighbours.

The midfielder will be hoping for a similar fate when the two teams meet at the same stage this Saturday.  

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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.