President Bola Tinubu has hailed the Super Eagles for their tenacious performance in the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Côte d’Ivoire.
Nigeria surrendered a first-half lead against the hosts, losing 1-2 on Sunday night.
But after the game, Tinubu in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media & Publicity Ajuri Ngelale, commended the team, the coach, the crew, and the entire management for their hard work, assiduity, and sacrifice to come this far in the tournament,
He also acknowledged the hurdles they consistently surpassed with steadily improving performance as they pulled through to the finals.
“Let this passing event not dispirit us, but bring us together to work harder. We are a great nation bound as one by the green-white-green banner of resilience, joy, hope, duty, and untiring love,” the statement read.
“To those cherished Nigerian youths expressing their gifts in communities, drawing lines in the sand as they play football in their humble rectangles of play, you can be our heroes tomorrow, do not relent in your pursuit. My administration is here to make dreams come true,” the President added.
Sunday’s win is an incredible achievement for a side that was on the brink of elimination in the group stage after losing 4-0 to Equatorial Guinea on January 22.
That was their heaviest ever home defeat and the Ivorians then parted company with coach Jean-Louis Gasset, replacing him with Emerse Fae, a teammate of Drogba’s in 2006.
They then began a remarkable turnaround which saw them oust holders Senegal on penalties, beat Mali with a last-gasp goal in extra time, and edge out DR Congo with a Haller goal in the last four.
Their supporters packed out the stadium to its 60,000 capacity, with many fans having to watch the game from vantage points on stairways.
Anyone wanting to dampen the excitement levels might have pointed out that Cup of Nations finals tend to be low-scoring affairs.
There were just 10 goals scored in the last 11 finals, five of which were decided on penalties after a 0-0 stalemate.
Indeed, Ivory Coast’s four previous final appearances had all ended goalless before going to penalties, two of which they had won.