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PREDICTION: Nigeria Vs Ivory Coast: Who will Win this Year AFCON?

The final will be underway today as hosts Ivory Coast will lock horns against Nigeria for the trophy.
Ivory coast will be gunning for their third title as African Champion while Nigeria is pushing for her fourth.

The Super Eagles face the hosts, Ivory Coast again after beating them 1-0 in the group stage in the final at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan on Sunday.

The Elephants of Ivory Coast are a surprise package in this tournament after they were nearly eliminated at the first hurdle having lost their final group game 4-0 to Equatorial Guinea in a disgraceful manner.
They were on the brink of elimination and they wasted no time in sacking their manager Jean-Louis Gasset who is a french and replace him with local coach Emerse fae who was Gasset assistant.

The host had to qualify as the last third best loser to qualify from the group stage, and since things turn around for them as they knocked out defending champion Senegal, Mali and Dr Congo enroute to the final.

It would be an extraordinary achievement for the 40-year-old French-born former Ivorian international, who played for his country in the 2006 final albeit on the losing side.

Emerse fae has given the team life and has transformed them since taking charge, he said: “We had difficult days emotionally and mentally and we came through the back door,” He continued “Losing 4-0 at home was terrible, and then afterwards we had to wait. Honestly, it was very difficult to work, to heal the wounds while crossing your fingers.”

Local press have dubbed Fae the “Special One”.

“No, no, no, that’s not true,” he replied on Saturday when asked about the tag first used for Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho. “It has been a collective to get us all here.”

Meanwhile The Super Eagle coach said after down playing the favourite tag “There is no favourite for the final,”
“Each side has a 50 percent chance, but we are determined to win this final.”

Osimhen, meantime, has previously received praise from his coach for his work rate and performances at the tournament.
The striker has work tirelessly for the team by dropping individual honour to embrace collective effort.

“He doesn’t play like he is the star. He fights for the team and is completely unselfish,” said Peseiro.

“He knows he is an important player and he gives us the best energy. He has suffered a lot in this tournament with all the attention he receives from the opposing defenders because he knows it is a team game.

Nigeria’s players to watch

Victor Osimhen
The African footballer of the year has not really come to light in this tournament, but he’s one of the reasons Nigeria are in the final with his relentless effort, hold up play and his two penalty he won for Nigeria gave the Super Eagles victory against the host in the group stage and against Angola at the quarter final.
I expect him to come with firework in today’s final game.

Ademola Lookman
The Atalanta forward scored all three goals his side managed in the round of 16 and quarterfinal wins against Cameroon and Angola respectively.
While Osimhen is drawing the attention of numerous opposition players both in and out of possession, Lookman was taken advantage of it and banging goals.
I expect him to be in dangerous position to convert chances in today’s final.

William Troost-Ekong
Captain fantastic has been a rock in defence, which has only conceded two goals so far, the tightest defense in the tournament.
He has also scored two penalties, one against Ivory Coast in the group stage and also score in normal time and netted in the shootout win against South Africa.
I expect him to continue his commanding performance at the back today.

Stanley Nwabali
The Nigeria goalkeeper has been a revelation at this tournament with wonderful saves combined with commanding presence between the stick and a good aerial ability.
With just two goals conceded so far, one in open play and four clean sheet, he’s one of the players to watch out for this night.
The Ivorian have their work cut out to breach and go pass the keeper.

Ivory Coast’s players to watch

Franck Kessie
The former Barcelona midfielder did not start very strong in this competition, but grew in stature as the competition progress.
He’s running the midfield and orchestrating play at the centre of the park for the ivorian.
He’s been man of the match in two games for the Elephant in this tournament and he will be important for them this night in clinching the cup.

Sebastian Haller
The Borussia Dortmund striker was only fit enough to start for the first time in the tournament against DR Congo in the semifinal. It was his goal that sent the Elephants to the final.
On his good day, he is an handful to defenders and he will be posing a threat to Nigeria defence with his aerial presence.
Ivory coast winning the cup would mark a remarkable comeback for Haller, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2022.

Simon Adingra
The Brighton and Hove Albion exciting winger is becoming something of a sensation at the tournament and is undoubtedly a fan favourite among the host nation’s supporters. Every time the ball arrives at Adingra’s feet the level of expectation and volume inside the venues lift. It was is effort that forced the game against the Malian team to extra time.
His dribbling skill, speed and trickery will be a concern to Nigeria defence.

Team news
Nigeria will hope there is no repeat of the abdominal complaint that resulted in Osimhen having to travel a day later than the rest of the squad for their semifinal.

Left-back Zaidu Sanusi missed the semifinal with South Africa due to a hamstring injury but will be given a late-fitness test in the run-up to the final, having been a constant prior to the meeting with Bafana Bafana.

Nigeria’s predicted starting XI: Stanley Nwabali, Semi Ajayi, William Troost-Ekong, Calvin Bassey, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Frank Onyeka, Alex Iwobi, Ola Aina, Moses Simon, Victor Osimhen, Ademola Lookman.

Ivory Coast welcome back the suspended pairing of Odilon Kossounou and Oumar Diakire, both of whom were sent off in the quarterfinal win against Mali. Kossounou was a starter in that game and is expected to return to the defence in place of Willy Bolly.

Ivory Coast’s predicted starting XI: Yahia Fofana, Wilfried Singo, Odilon Kossounou, Evan Ndicka, Ghislain Konan, Frank Kessié, Jean-Michael Seri, Seko Fofana, Max Gradel, Sebastian Haller, Simon Adingra.

Head-to-head record:
Matches: 12
Nigeria won: 4
Ivory Coast won: 6
Draws: 2

Ivory Coast has an edge base on the head to head record.

Match prediction: another tough and physical match to witness this night.
A slight victory for Nigeria
Nigeria 1 Ivory Coast 0.

Time: 9pm Nigeria time.
Venue: Alassane Ouattara Stadium, Abidjan, Ivory Coast

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