BY Abubakar Yunusa
In the unforgiving arena of the Africa Cup of Nations, where every team’s vulnerabilities are laid bare, Nigeria finds itself grappling with a downturn in fortunes.
Once a powerhouse in African football, Nigeria’s glory days seem distant, as they have only secured one podium finish since their 2013 AFCON triumph, marking a significant departure from their consistent top-three standings in the 26 tournaments between 1976 and 2013.
The disappointment extends beyond the continental stage, with Nigeria failing to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and facing a challenging start in the 2026 qualifying rounds.
Can the Super Eagles mount a comeback in 2024 and restore their reputation as a football force? Despite boasting a talented squad, internal challenges such as coaching dynamics and team unity threaten to undermine their resurgence.
Looking ahead to the AFCON, the betting odds paint a sobering picture for Nigeria, ranking them as the sixth-favorite to win. This is a stark contrast to the era when they were perennially among the top three teams in Africa.
The question lingers: Can Nigeria clinch the Africa Cup of Nations in 2024?
While the Super Eagles possess the talent to make a deep run, doubts arise about their ability to emerge victorious. Star striker Victor Osimhen, fresh off winning the African Player of the Year in 2023, leads the team.
However, setbacks, such as Victor Boniface’s serious injury, have dealt a blow to the squad’s depth.
With key players like Alex Iwobi, Samuel Chukwueze, and Kelechi Iheanacho, Nigeria’s roster remains formidable, but their struggle to convert talent into results is evident.
Lackluster draws in World Cup qualifying and a pre-tournament friendly defeat highlight the need for improved goal-scoring capabilities.
Under the leadership of Portuguese manager Jose Peseiro, Nigeria aims to surpass their 2021 AFCON performance. While a semifinal appearance is conceivable, formidable contenders like Senegal, Morocco, and Egypt may hold the upper hand in the quest for the coveted trophy. The pressure is on, as Peseiro recognizes the pivotal role this competition plays in shaping the Super Eagles’ football narrative.
Abubakar Yunusa, freelance journalist, write from Abuja.