By Wale Mustapha
Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria have qualified automatically from Group A for the knockout stages of 2023Africa Cup of Nations taking place in Ivory Coast after securing victories in their final group stage games on Monday.
The Super Eagles were favourites to claim the summit of the Group after a stunning victory over hosts Cote d’Ivoire to get their campaign back on track despite a disappointing 1-1 opening draw with Equatorial Guinea.
The Nigerians finished on a high with back-to-back wins, including a nervy 1-0 triumph against Guinea-Bissau to garner seven points from three matches on Monday.
The qualification would not come as surprise for many with Jose Peseiro’s men paired in the same group with hosts Ivory Coast, the Nzalang Nationale and minnows Guinea-Bissau.
Contrastingly, the three times AFCON winners finished second behind Equatorial Guinea who surprised bookmakers by walloping the Ivorians 4-0 in the last group game to top the group.
The Super Eagles, gifted with one of the dreaded attacks leading to the tournament ended the group stage with just three goals with only from open play, conceded one.
One will expect basketful of goals from Peseiro’s men but their defensive consciousness left much to desire as it has affected the team to pour forward with sight on goal.
For Ivory Coast, it was a shambolic performance from the Elephants as their qualification dreams to the next round hangs in the balance following humiliation at the hands of the Central African nation.
They were able to record just three points, their opening day win over Guinea-Bissau and lost their last two games to Equatorial Guinea and the Super Eagles. As it stands, three three points might not be enough to see them through knockout stages except miracle happens elsewhere.
It will be a very disastrous tournament for the Ivorians who have offered much in terms of quality organization as host to 23 participating nations, not to make it to the next round but they won’t be first to experience that.
The Nzalang Nationale will be talk of tournament with how they fared so far, coming out on top in the game group involving Nigeria and Ivory Coast is enough to count them as surprise package of the tournament.
They did not only led the group, they also played one of the best games at the tournament as well as scoring more goals (9) in the process.
They looked more of s formidable team who has a target at this tournament and the whole of African would like to see how far they could go with their good runs.
As expected, the Djurtus of Guinea-Bissau were to be whipping boys of the group and they didn’t disappoint, with no point to show from the games making them eliminated from the group stage for the fourth time in a row.
Though they put up some convincing performances which they can build on and hope to come back stronger in the subsequent editions.