Super Eagles coach Jose Peseiro has admitted the Elephants of Ivory Coast were the better side following the former’s loss in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Sebastien Haller scored a dramatic late winner as hosts Ivory Coast fought back to beat Victor Osimhen’s Nigeria 2-1 in Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations final and complete the most remarkable of major tournament turnarounds by claiming their third continental title.
But speaking after the match, Peseiro, who was leading Nigeria to its first final since 2013, admitted that the hosts were better on the night.
“Ivory Coast were better than us today,” Peseiro admitted in a post-match interview. “I am sad, my team is sad, but for me they did the maximum, each one. Sometimes you want to do something but you cannot do it.”
Sunday’s win was an incredible achievement for an Ivory Coast 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 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 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.