By Oyediji Oluwaseun Babatunde
A joyous and indomitable Nigeria’s senior men’s national team is heading to the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) for the first time in 11 years.
This is coming after a 4-2 win over South Africa on aggregate as the team attempts to win their fourth title.
A lot can be learned from the last four games which was a truly competitive encounter, with the fact that the Super Eagles’ dominance over Bafana Bafana is gradually waning away.
The Southern African side had not beaten Nigeria at the tournament but the gap keeps getting closer.
They scored their second goal in the competition against Nigeria on Wednesday.
Not only that they took a knockout match against the Super Eagles to extra time and penalties for the first time.
This means that the players and coach of the team need to be wary of Hugo Broos’ side as they will meet again at the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Moreso, fans have been clamouring for a replacement for Zaidu Sanusi due to his not-too-impressive form for the team at the competition.
For the first time at the competition, he was replaced by Bright Osayi Samuel due to his injury.
His replacement performed well to expectations with little room for mistakes on the wing.
Moreover, Stanley Nwabali continued to prove himself as the best goalkeeper for the team ahead of Francis Uzoho.
He displayed this again in the semi-final match far above expectations with saves.
Amazingly, he added penalty heroics to his artilleries by saving two spot kicks from the South Africans.
They were crucial in lifting the three-time African champions to another place in the final.
Another key lesson to learn is the fact that the team’s defence can be under threat from a solid side.
The South Africans almost won the match in the last moments of the 90 minutes of play with chances.
This means that the team must be focused for the full duration of games to get the desired results.
Finally, the team confirmed themselves as one goal specialist for this tournament.
Since the beginning of AFCON 2023, the Super Eagles have won their matches and drawn two scoring a goal apart from the 2-0 win over Cameroon in the Round of 16.
This is a department the technical team needs to work on to ensure that opponents don’t come back to hurt them now that they are facing the host country in the final.