Three-time African champions, the Super Eagles have failed in their bid to win a fourth title after suffering a 2-1 defeat against host Cote d’Ivoire in the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final played Sunday night at the Alassane Quattra Stadium in Ebimpe.
Against the run of play, Super Eagles on-field captain, William Troost-Ekong broke the deadlock in the 38th minute when he out jumped Nottingham Forest’s Serge Aurier to head Nigeria into a crucial 1-0 lead.
The goal no doubt reduced pressure on the Super Eagles defence but on resumption Ivory Coast, who had pulled off stunning late comebacks in the knockout stages against Senegal and Mali responded immediately when AC Milan midfielder, Franck Kessie headed in the equaliser just after the hour mark.
Sebastien Haller then scored the second for Cote d’Ivoire in the 81st minute for the Elephants to emerge champions of Africa for the third time, after victories in 1992 and 2015.
Yesterday’s defeat brings to five the number of the times the Super Eagles have failed to lift the coveted trophy after reaching the AFCON final.
It was also the second time Nigeria lost in the final in Cote d’Ivoire. The first time the Super Eagles reached the final but failed to win was in 1984 when they were beaten 3-1 by the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon at the Stade Felix Houphouet Boigny, Abidjan
The Super Eagles second loss in the final still came against the Indomitable Lions in 1988 when Morocco hosted the continental championship. Emmanuel Kunde scored the only goal in the 10th minute to deny the Super Eagles their second AFCON title.
Nigeria’s third defeat came in 1990 against the host Algeria. Although the Super Eagles bounced back from their scandalous 0-5 defeat in the opening match of the tournament against Algeria, they still suffered a 1-0 defeat in the hands of the Desert Foxes in the final played at the Stade 5 Julliet 1962, Algiers and watched by 105,032 spectators. Cherif Oudjani scored the only goal of the match in the 38th minute.
The Super Eagles eventually joined the list of nations that hosted but failed to win the trophy in 2000 when Nigeria co-hosted the AFCON with Ghana.
In the final match at the National Stadium Surulere, Lagos, the Super Eagles lost 4-3 on penalties to arch rivals, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, after a 2-2 draw in regulation time.