Nigeria vs Ivory Coast predictions: Abidjan final a close one to call
The Africa Cup of Nations wraps up on Sunday, with hosts Ivory Coast taking on Nigeria in the final. While Nigeria have looked like the tournament’s outstanding side throughout, the hosts are aiming to complete the most remarkable turnaround.
The Super Eagles Nigeria beat Ivory Coast 1-0 in the group stage but this is set to be a very different encounter.
Not only have the host nation replaced their manager since that defeat, but they have gained some momentum after some huge results in the knockout rounds.
Nigeria have no new injury concerns to report ahead of their clash with Ivory Coast. They’re expected to maintain the 3-4-1-2 system which has taken them this far, with Moses Simon and Ademola Lookman supporting Victor Osimhen.
Ivory Coast are unlikely to rotate despite the return of Serge Aurier, Odilon Kossounou and Oumar Diakite from suspension.
Nigeria needed penalties to progress from the semi-finals after a 1-1 draw with South Africa after extra time.
Ivory Coast have drawn two of their three knockout games at this tournament, needing penalties to overcome Senegal and extra time to get past Mali.
Since 2000, six of the 12 AFCON finals have gone to extra-time.
Ivory Coast have made the AFCON final on four occasions, with each finishing 0-0 after 90 minutes.
Nigeria have lost only once across their last 14 internationals. However, four of Nigeria’s last nine games have finished 1-1.
It is incredible to think that the Ivory Coast have made it this far, having sacked manager Jean-Louis Gasset after the group stage.
Under Gasset’s watch, Ivory Coast lost two of their first three games at this tournament, which included the narrow 1-0 defeat against Nigeria.
However, the hosts finished fourth in the ranking of third-placed sides and they were able to sneak into the last 16.
A match with defending champions Senegal looked tough, but a late equaliser from the penalty spot kept them in the contest.
A subsequent win on penalties against one of the tournament favourites has turned their fortunes around and has signalled the start of an incredible run to the final.
Nigeria had won each of their first five games at this tournament, but they did slip up in the semi-finals against an organised South Africa side.
The Super Eagles needed a penalty to edge past Ivory Coast in their 1-0 group-stage victory, but the resilience the hosts have shown since suggests this clash will be closer.
History tells us that AFCON finals tend to be tight affairs, especially when The Elephants are involved.
Six of the 12 finals in the 21st century have finished level after 90 minutes, while all four of Ivory Coast’s previous finals have finished 0-0.
Nigeria may have impressed on their way to the final but they have been scoring a lot of goals.
They have struck a solitary goal in five of their six games at the tournament so far while they have drawn 1-1 in four of their last nine games overall. With that in mind, a draw in 90 minutes looks likely on Sunday.
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