Peseiro Defends Controversial Osimhen Call That Risked Nigeria’s AFCON Qualification Chances

Peseiro Defends Controversial Osimhen Call That Risked Nigeria’s AFCON Qualification Chances
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Super Eagles manager José Peseiro has explained his motive for substituting Victor Osimhen and Joe Aribo in the team's 3-2 win over Sierra Leone on Sunday afternoon.

The Nigeria national football team manager is excited about the prospect of leading Nigeria to the AFCON 2023 tournament, which will be his third major tournament since taking on international manager duties.

The qualification phase for the AFCON 2023 tournament was not his best work but he has helped the team seal the ticket with a game to spare. In the media rounds, however, he explained his reasons for two key substitutions.

Nigeria power past Sierra Leone late onslaught to seal AFCON 2023 ticket

José Peseiro put out a 4-4-1-1 formation with 2023 Capocannoniere award winner Victor Osimhen leading the line. The line up was also deployed as a 4-3-3 at times during the game.

Southampton man Joe Aribo started in the space behind him and on occasion, dropped into the middle of the park alongside Alex Iwobi and Wilfred Ndidi to allow Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze to have control of the left and right wings.

The formation worked well for the three-time AFCON champions as they peppered the goal of the Leone Stars, giving their goalkeeper some work to do in the first half. By the 35th minute, Sierra Leone were two goals down but the half ended 2 – 1.

Aribo was substituted in the second half for Brentford's Frank Onyeka as Nigeria had become too quiet in attack and midfield. The substitution changed the game, giving the Sierra Leonians the chance to equalise and almost beat Nigeria before Kelechi Iheanacho scored in the dying minutes to steal all three points.

It was a match which showed Osimhen at his striking best for Nigeria. Aribo, on the other hand, had an above average game but was a presence which made things a little easier for Osimhen in the attack. Questions were asked after Peseiro chose to take that away from the team.

Peseiro claims injury scare forced him to make changes

The game was a physical game, typical of African football. Not many fouls were awarded but there were many strong tackles, some of which the players on the receiving end had to take some time to shake off before getting involved in the game again.

Osimhen had a scare in the 49th minute as he went down under one of such challenges, leading to the only injury stoppage of the game. He played on till the 81st minute, when he was replaced by Nottingham Forest striker Taiwo Awoniyi. Aribo had gone off ten minutes before that.

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Peseiro noted that the injury scares made him take both players off. “I try to improve the team. Of course, Aribo it was due to injury and asked to go out. Osimhen also felt something in the leg,” Peseiro told reporters of the Nigeria football news media.

“The others I tried to give more power, energy and quality to fight till the end because Sierra Leone in that moment didn't create many opportunities but (later) they attacked and pressurized us and they did very well”.

This article was most recently revised and updated 11 months ago