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AFCON preview: Nigeria vs Angola

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Nigeria vs Angola is the first quarter-final game of the ongoing TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations by 6pm today.

All eyes are on the Super Eagles of Nigeria as they slug it out against Angola in the  AFCON Cote d’Ivoire 2023.

The target for Nigeria is to qualify for the semi-final.

Both teams boast a youthful squad, with an average age of 26 years, as they set their sights on a crucial victory to secure a spot in the AFCON semifinals.

The winner between Nigeria and Angola on Wednesday will February 7, 2024, be at the 40,000-capacity Peace Stadium in Bouake.

They will face the winner of Cape Verde vs. South Africa to be played also on Friday.

The AFCON tournament runs from January 13 until February 11.

Football enthusiasts and supporters await an exciting clash as these teams compete for a coveted spot in the tournament’s semifinal stage.

However, Angola have never won the trophy and would hope to make a mark when they face Nigeria at the 33,000-capacity Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan.

AFCON: Nigeria vs Angola

Angola is poised to sustain their underdog narrative as they go head-to-head against one of the tournament’s top contenders, Nigeria.

Having triumphed over the inexperienced Namibia in the Round of 16, the team has etched their name in history by securing their first-ever victory in the tournament’s knockout stage.

Nigeria, however, have not been convincing in the tournament, boasting five goals and conceding one.

Of the five goals, one is from the penalty spot, and another is an own goal from the opposition’s side.

The defensive prowess of Nigeria will be put to the ultimate test against the attacking trio of Angola, featuring Jacinto Dala, Gilberto, and Mabululu.

AFCON quarterfinals

The four quarter-final matches are scheduled from Friday, February 2, 2024, to Saturday, February 3.

Peseiro had on Tuesday warned his players to manage the euphoria of their quarter-final qualification at the ongoing AFCON ahead of a potentially tough last-eight clash with Angola.

The 34th edition of Africa’s largest football event unfolds with exceptional moments, marked by high-quality football, and unexpected plot twists.

It’s also marked by the vibrant presence of ardent African football enthusiasts in all their colourful glory across the five host cities.

Pedro Goncalves’s squad pulled off a surprising feat by clinching the top spot in Group B, which included the reigning 2019 champions Algeria.

Since the initial 1-1 draw with the Fennec Fox, they have maintained impressive momentum, securing victories against formidable opponents, including the Almoravids of Mauritania (3-2), the Stallions of Burkina Faso (2-0), and the Brave Warriors of Namibia (3-0).

Players availability

Nigeria faces uncertainty regarding the availability of Stanley Nwabali, who has been deputising for the unpredictable Francis Uzoho at the finals. Nwabali was withdrawn due to injury after the match against Cameroon, but the Chippa United shot-stopper participated in training on Tuesday.

Adding to the concerns, the Super Eagles trained without William Troost-Ekong on both Monday and Tuesday. The vice-captain is grappling with a thigh problem that sidelined him during the final Group A game against Guinea-Bissau.

Zaidu Shehu is another player whose availability is doubtful.

Ahead of today’s game, Peseiro addressed the goalkeeper’s situation, stating that his availability was still subject to a late fitness test during the team’s last training session for the game on Thursday.

“…If Nwabali is not fit, I trust Uzoho,” Peseiro said at the pre-match conference on Thursday.

In terms of the attacking lineup, Osimhen, Lookman, and Moses Simon are expected to lead the front, with many other options available on the bench.

Coach Jose Peseiro is unlikely to alter his approach in the quarterfinals.

For Angola, Mabululu and Dala have been standout performers, while Fredy’s three assists have played a crucial role for the Palancas Negras. Gilberto adds an element of unpredictability, making him a notable threat.

However, Angola will be without the services of Neblu, who is suspended following his red card after 17 minutes in the match against Namibia for handling the ball outside his penalty area.

Preview: Nigeria vs Angola

In a June 2005 encounter at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano State, the Super Eagles experienced a bitter setback when the Palancas Negras secured a 1-1 draw in the qualifying rounds of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Having suffered a lone-goal defeat in the first leg in Angola the previous year, the Super Eagles entered the match needing a victory to keep their World Cup dreams alive.

The prospects seemed promising early on, with Jay Jay Okocha securing a lead for Nigeria in the fifth minute as the Super Eagles dominated for extended periods.

Regrettably for Nigeria, Paolo Figueiredo levelled the score for the away side, ultimately extinguishing Nigeria’s hopes of qualification for the 2006 World Cup held in Germany.

Okawaraji

Again, another notable event was when Samuel Okwaraji slumped and died on August 12, 1989, in Lagos while playing against the Angolans in a 1990 World Cup qualifier.

Okwaraji, 25, slumped inside the main bowl of the National Stadium, Lagos, 10 minutes to the end of the Italia 1990 qualifier, and while the Eagles secured a hard-earned 1-0 win, the skilled player lost his life.

Earlier in January, they had played a 2-2 draw.

Meanwhile, former Super Eagles midfielder Etim Esin has charged the current national side to beat Angola in Friday’s AFCON quarter-final clash in Ivory Coast in memory of the late Sam Okwaraji.

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