Nigeria will be looking to win a fourth African crown in Ivory Coast, but they would have to do it without some of their best legs
Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro does not have the services of Wilfred Ndidi, Sadiq Umar, and Victor Boniface as the Super Eagles challenge for a fourth Africa Cup of Nations title.
Soccernet.ng reports that all three players made the final 25-man squad for the tournament, but Ndidi was ruled out due to a muscle injury, Boniface had to undergo surgery for a groin injury, and Sadiq had to return to Spain to get more treatment due to fears of a knee injury.
In their place, Alhassan Yusuf, Terem Moffi, and Paul Onuachu were all called up to the Super Eagles camp. However, a lot of Nigerian fans believe that without Ndidi, Boniface, and Sadiq, the team will struggle.
Soccernet.ng takes a critical look at Peseiro’s predicament and analyzes Nigeria’s chances of silverware in Ivory Coast.
Yusuf has been one of the best defensive midfielders in the Belgian Jupiler League in the last two seasons.
Last season, the 23-year-old midfielder made 27 appearances for Antwerp in the Belgian Pro League. He recorded 1.7 interceptions per game, 2.1 tackles per game, and one assist.
Likened to former Chelsea star Ngolo Kante, Yusuf has averaged 5.9 ball recoveries per game. The young midfielder is known for his tireless hardwork on the pitch. In comparison with Ndidi, Yusuf is quite inexperienced and has yet to establish himself in the game, but he has shown promise, and with the right coaching, he could do wonders.
He already showed glimpses of his ability in Nigeria’s first game against Equatorial Guinea, which they drew 1-1. Although he was a little raw in some areas, he was one of the best players on the pitch. If Yusuf can put up that kind of performance for the rest of the tournament and the other players perform at their best, Nigeria could win a fourth title.
Meanwhile, Moffi and Onuachu will be looking to make sure that Boniface and Sadiq are not missed. With Osimhen leading the line against Equatorial Guinea, the Super Eagles were quite profligate. Nigeria had a plethora of chances but could only score one.
Moffi is quite similar to Boniface in how they operate, albeit Boniface is a better dribbler. But the Nice star has a solid record too, as he has registered six goals and two assists in 17 Ligue 1 games.
Meanwhile, Onuachu could offer a new option with his aerial prowess and physicality. The Southampton-owned hitman has been superb this season, churning out eight goals and three assists in 14 games.
Still, the ball lies in coach Peseiro’s court. In the first game against Equatorial Guinea, he played just one striker for the entire game, albeit he usually operates with two. If he opts to return to his usual style, Moffi would be the favourite to start alongside the untouchable Osimhen. But if it gets tough, Onachu could be called upon.