Nigeria’s performance in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations faced criticism following lackluster displays in the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers and pre-tournament friendlies. Despite a slow start, the Super Eagles have reached the semi-finals, with coach Jose Peseiro defending their readiness for Afcon, emphasizing that friendly matches were not a true reflection of their capabilities.
Highlighting their last friendly against Guinea, which ended in a 2-0 defeat, and a 2-2 draw against Saudi Arabia, Peseiro acknowledged the goal-shyness but maintained that friendlies served as a testing ground for various strategies and player combinations. Playing many matches away from home, including encounters with Portugal, Mexico, and Mozambique, further contributed to the learning process.
As they gear up for the semi-final clash with South Africa on February 7, the Super Eagles aim to secure a spot in the final for the first time since their 2013 victory. Bafana Bafana, on the other hand, reached the last four for the first time since 2000, setting the stage for a compelling encounter.