Nigerians may be savouring Super Eagles’ victory over South Africa that put them in the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) but coach Jose Peseiro is unhappy that his new-found winning formation failed in the semifinals match.
After his team beat Bafana Bafana of South Africa 4-2 on post-match penalties on Wednesday, Peseiro said the formation nearly collapsed in the last 20 minutes of the semi-final clash in Bouake, Cote d’Ivoire.
The Portuguese coach also posited that the semi-final match was his toughest game so far in the tournament.
“At around the 90th minute, I felt that our team suffered, we were shaken, we lost the balance. But during the break before the extra time, we put ourselves together and went into extra time with confidence. They (South Africa) are a very good team, they created a lot of problems for us, they did a fantastic job but I think our boys deserved to win,” Peseiro said after the match.
Nigeria’s Vice President Kassim Shettima led a government delegation that included Information and National Orientation Minister Mohammed Idris to the match. Later, Idris reaffirmed the government’s support for the team.
“The entire nation is behind the Super Eagles as they prepare to make history and write their names in gold in African football. You carry the hopes and aspirations of the entire nation on your shoulders. Nigerians will continue to support and cheer you as you strive for greatness in the final match,” he told the players.
The government has commended the Super Eagles for displaying remarkable talent, determination, and teamwork in the match, showcasing the true spirit of Nigerian football.
Nigeria’s Minister of Sports Development John Owan Enoh said the team is an “unstoppable force”.
On Thursday, Owan commended the players, coaching staff and all those involved in the team’s preparation for a job well done.
He also emphasised the significance of their achievement in uniting the nation and inspiring future generations of Nigerian sports stars.
“It is with immense pride that I extend my congratulations to our beloved Super Eagles for their remarkable victory against South Africa,” he said.
“Their performance has once again demonstrated the formidable talent and spirit that define Nigerian sports. They have proven themselves to be an unstoppable force, and I have no doubt that they will continue to make our nation proud in the final and beyond,” he added.
Some football fans have called for sincere unity among Nigerians by putting aside their differences and throwing themselves behind the team.
Nigerian football fan Kehinde Alagbada said Super Eagles’ victory over South Africa marked the happiest day of his life.
He urged Nigerians to put aside their differences.
“We are stronger together and anything that will unite Nigerians should be paramount,” he said.
Ralf Nwoye, another fan, said that the predictions ahead of the match made everyone apprehensive.
He also said fear of a possible riots or attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa added to the tension as people became worried of their safety.
“We don’t expect any riots now because Nigeria won the game fair and square. South Africans should know that their team played very well but the Nigerian team played better,” he added.
Footvall analyst Joe Smith said Super Eagles should not lose focus but should remain more composed and refrain from committing mistakes in the final match.
He commended the resilience of the Nigerian players after the Bafana Bafana of South Africa equalised through a penalty.
President Bola Tinubu also hailed the team and said the team has made all Nigerians proud.
“Go on and soar in the final. Well done boys!” he said after the match in Bouake.
Nigeria is set to play Afcon hosts Ivory Coast at 11 pm (Kenyan time) in the final on Sunday at the Alassane Outtara Stadium in Ebimpe. South Africa will take on DR Congo for the third-place contention at 11 pm on Saturday at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium.