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AFCON 2023, 4 reasons Nigeria’s Super Eagles lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast.

Nigeria’s wait for their fourth Africa Cup of Nations title continues after they lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast in this year’s final.

At the end of the first half, it appeared the Super Eagles would have lifted the trophy again, after William Troost-Ekong’s goal.

The captain rose highest to head in a corner kick and give Nigeria the lead.

But second half goals from Franck Kessie and Sebastien Haller saw the Elephants win the title on home soil.

So what went wrong?

1. Peseiro got his tactics wrong: Credit to Jose Peseiro. After the 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea in the opening group fixture, he switched to a 3-4-3 tactical system that saw Nigeria go all the way to the final. However, from the semi-final against South Africa, the cracks in that setup began to show. And against the hosts, the Portuguese needed to switch it up again, possibly return to a back four.

2. Too many poor performances: From back to front, there were a few poor displays from Nigerian players. Calvin Bassey was shaky. Zaidu Sanusi returned to the starting XI, but remained unreliable. Ola Aina chose to have his worst game in the final. Alex Iwobi was merely a passenger on the pitch, while Samuel Chukwueze had no business starting the game.

3. Weight of history: The Super Eagles have never defeated a host country in an AFCON final. And from the moment Ivory Coast snuck into the knockout stages as the last team to qualify, it felt ominous. There was a call of destiny they had to answer. It was crowned by Sebastien Haller getting the winner. Almost two years ago, he was diagnosed with cancer. On Sunday, he was helping his country make history.

4. Poor officiating: For most of the tournament, fans and pundits hailed the use of Video Assistant Referees (VAR), urging the top European leagues to learn a thing or two. But officiating for the final was an eyesore. The referee seemed jittery and overwhelmed. Most of the 50-50 calls went the way of the hosts. Kessie, who equalized for the hosts, could have easily seen red after elbowing Sanusi.

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