With the first knockout stage matches over and the quarter-finalists decided, the Super Eagles have found themselves as the highest-ranked team amongst the lot, but how have they fared so far in the tournament?
It has not been easy for all the teams that made it to the quarter-final. While the path had thorns for some, others have had a light route.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria have continued to grow into the tournament. With a tie against Angola, many expect more from them, especially as their main rivals for the title – Senegal, Morocco, Ghana, and Cameroon are out of the tournament.
No quarter-finalist at AFCON 2021 made it to this stage at AFCON 2023. We review the performances of the eight teams, including the Super Eagles.
How the Super Eagles have fared at AFCON 2023
Super Eagles of Nigeria
Not many gave the Super Eagles a chance to go far in this tournament, but they have reached the quarter-final with a bright chance of winning AFCON 2023.
They boast the meanest defence in the tournament – conceding only one goal in the 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea.
They have continued to grow in confidence and stature, with their best game against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.
Their weakness is the attack. They are the team with the most chances created at the tournament and wasted the most big chances. Victor Osimhen is a culprit in this regard.
The Super Eagles must be more clinical in front of goal to go beyond the quarter-finals. The upside for the team is that they scored in every game they played.
Defenders have found the industry of Osimhen a tough riddle to solve.
The steady hands and calm mien of Stanley Nwabali have been a massive bonus for the team.
Super Eagles First Choice Goalkeeper, Stanley Nwabali Is Back In Training With The Super Eagles Ahead Of The Game Against Angola On Friday 🥰🇳🇬
I'm so glad to hear that Stanley Nwabali is back in training with the team. #AFCON pic.twitter.com/xLeE36drsm
— Sir Victor (@OjajuniVictor) January 31, 2024
Top Super Eagles players
In the defence of Nigeria, three players have stood out with their performance. They include the captain William Troost Ekong, who has been the unsung hero of the team, Ola Aina and Calvin Bassey.
The midfield has not been top-notch, but what Alex iwobi has lacked offensively, he made up with effort and defensive support. Frank Onyeka has been the best Super Eagles best midfielder.
Alhassan Yusuf filled in well for Wilfred Ndidi before bowing out to injury.
In attack, Osimhen has not been at his best in terms of goal-scoring, missing several chances, but his work rate and contribution have been immense.
Ademola Lookman has been able to capitalize on the inability of Osimhen to get goals, but he needs to do more. He is the top scorer in the team with two goals.
Other AFCON 2023 quarter-finalists
The Palancas Negras have a date with the Super Eagles on Friday. They have proven to be a formidable side at AFCON 2023 and have been promised added incentives to beat the Super Eagles.
They have shown a knack for scoring goals and are the highest-scoring side in the tournament with ten goals. Nine goals came through Gelson Dala (5) and Agostino Mabululu (4).
Defensively, they have not been tested, as their opponents have not lit up the tournament. They scored three against a hapless Namibia and conceded three goals at AFCON 2023.
Of the eight quarter-finalists, only Guinea has conceded more (4).
DR Congo have not won any game in 90 minutes at AFCON 2023. They have been resilient defensively but have found scoring goals a massive problem.
In four games, the Leopards have scored only three goals as they drew all their group games and had to make it to the quarter-final via a penalty shootout victory over Egypt.
Their top man is Cedric Bakambu, but he has yet to score any goal. Their goals have come from midfielders as they play a compact midfield.
They will be a handful for the Syli Nationale of Guinea.
The Syli Nationale will square off with the Leopards of Guinea on Friday.
Guinea were in line to face the Super Eagles in the first knockout stage, but they lost their last group game to Senegal and ended up facing Equatorial Guinea.
They defend well as a unit and are not high goal-scorers. They are also prone to committing blunders from indecision in their defending.
They have scored three goals at AFCON 2023. While Stuttgart striker Serhou Guirassy has failed to score any goal, Mohamed Bayo has scored two of their three goals.
Naby Keita has also not lived up to his reputation. The Syli Nationale has a good chance of making it to the semi-final.
The Eagles of Mali finished top of its group with five points. Their inability to beat the Brave Warriors of Namibia in their last group game almost truncated Ivory Coast’s chances of a place in the Round of 16.
Their top scorer is Lassine Sinayoko, who has two goals from four games. The Eagles have not been as dominant as expected. There is a belief that against a side that is worth its onions, Mali would struggle.
They received a massive scare from Burkina Faso, who had them against the ropes in the second half of their Round of 16 clash.
The Elephants of Ivory Coast came to AFCON 2023 with two sides – one for the group stage and one for the knockout.
They were rudderless in the group stage and lacked direction. They managed to qualify by the last hold of their trunks.
Under a new coach – Emerse Fae, they shocked the world by beating tournament favourites Senegal via penalties.
Ivory Coast played with more vim and purpose against Senegal, and if they continue to produce at that level, they may be in the final.
With all the big names bar Nigeria out of the tournament, it is hard to bet against them doing so.
Cape Verde has been steady in the tournament. From their first game when they shocked the Black Stars of Ghana, they have continued to serve rugged football determination.
A well-oiled machine and not flustered by the size of the opposition. Even when guaranteed a place in the next phase at the top of the table, they still made life difficult for the Pharaohs in a 2-2 draw.
They are a dangerous side who don’t rely on one player to do the damage for them. They scored seven group-stage goals by different players.
Their top scorer is Ryan Mendes, with two goals.
Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos has called on his charges to stay grounded as they prepare to face minnows Cape Verde in the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations.#AFCON2023https://t.co/GdbXzOMTte
— Playa Bets (@Playabets) January 31, 2024
Bafana Bafana must have surprised even themselves when they beat the highly fancied Atlas Lions of Morocco 2-0 in the Round of 16.
Hugo Broos has built a side that defends solidly, with the pace and capacity to strike on the counter. They have conceded in only one game – their first of the tournament (a 2-0 loss to Mali).
Despite conceding only twice, they are vulnerable in the defence, which the Atlas Lions failed to capitalize on. Broos must get his side to tighten up more and close the gaps to reach the final.
This article was most recently revised and updated 4 weeks ago