Four takeaways from Super Eagles AFCON 2023 final loss to Ivory Coast

Four takeaways from Super Eagles AFCON 2023 final loss to Ivory Coast
Credit: Icon Sport

The Super Eagles of Nigeria fell short in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final against Ivory Coast on Sunday night.

Jose Peseiro's team lost 2-1 to the Elephants who came from a goal down to clinch a historic victory on home soil in a match the better team won.

With the win, the Ivoriens have now matched Nigeria in three AFCON titles to cement their place as one of the most winners of the most prestigious continental competition.

Four takeaways from Super Eagles defeat

There are many observations drawn from the game, but we have decided to list four of them.

Indeed, Eagles do not fly at night

The Super Eagles of Nigeria entered the match as favourites and for good reason. They've been good in the tournament defensively and have done just enough in attack as well to be able to win the trophy.

However, Ivory Coast made an assured start to the match with the home support fully behind them, a factor which proved to be a source of motivation for Emerse Faé's men and a demoralizing one for the Nigerian players who played below the standards they've set in the tournament.

The Elephants completely plucked off the Eagles wings right from the onset and even though Nigeria scored against the run of play, Faé's side kept coming at them and duly got a deserved win.

Jose Peseiro's team have been exceptionally good, but on the night when they could have taken their AFCON tally to four, they failed to fly.

Ivory Coast deserved the win

Kessie got the equalizer against the Super Eagles
Credit: Icon Sport

Considering the circumstances in which the team qualified into the knockout stage and how they were able to pull through despite the odds to make the finals, the team looked destined to win the Africa Cup of Nations on home soil.

Backed by their home fans, the Elephants started like a house on fire and dominated the Super Eagles in every department.

Even though they fell behind at half-time, the determination to win and succeed when it became difficult is worthy of commendation.

Faé instilled a winning spirit into the players who came guns blazing in the second half, taking full advantage of Nigeria's lack of creativity and zeal in the encounter to emerge victorious.

Nigeria needs creative midfielders

The Super Eagles lost but they performed beyond anyone's expectations. Prior to the tournament, the team failed to win back-to-back 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against Rwanda and Zimbabwe and the feeling of a disappointing AFCON campaign was big amongst many Nigerians.

Nonetheless, Peseiro was able to find a winning formula to compensate for the lack of creative players in the middle of the park, a system which worked until the finals.

With the Ivoriens having many men in the middle, Nigeria failed to create anything worthy of winning the trophy. The Super Eagles really need a creative spark like the legendary Jay-Jay Okocha and they need to find one or two before the next AFCON to really stand a chance of clinching their fourth continental trophy.

William Troost-Ekong deserved his Player of the Tournament award

William Troost-Ekong gives Super Eagles the lead against Ivory Coast
Credit: Icon Sport

Troost-Ekong was a driving force for the Nigerian team in the Africa Cup of Nations. He scored three goals for the team and was defensively brilliant in every game he played.

In a tournament where the African superstars featured in, it was a defender who outshone everyone and was duly rewarded for his performances.

The 30-year-old delivered his best performances in a Super Eagles shirt in the tournament and even though he could not lift the AFCON trophy, he got his flowers.

This article was most recently revised and updated 5 months ago

Joseph is a freelance writer who spends most of his time writing engaging football contents. Based in Nigeria, Joseph is a die-hard Real Madrid fan with over 8 years experience in the sports betting space. He has covered football match previews, predictions, and news across leagues in Africa and Europe.