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AFCON preview: Osimhen, Lookman, Boniface… 5 Super Eagles players to watch

AFCON preview: Osimhen, Lookman, Boniface… 5 Super Eagles players to watch
January 08
11:30 2024

Nigeria has long been admired for producing football players blessed with flair and talent, earning them the tag “entertainers of Africa”.

But these attributes have not always translated into laurels and acclaim.

The Super Eagles head to the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) chasing another champagne moment after coming up short in the past few tournaments.

The Eagles last won the much-coveted trophy in 2013, and have failed to impress in the subsequent editions.

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Ahead of the 2024 showpiece kicking off in Ivory Coast on Saturday, the players have been talking the talk.

But will the talk match the on-field action when the African football competition begins?

Here are five Eagles who can make a difference.

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Victor Osimhen

The Olusosun-bred striker is one of the world-class stars expected to light up the tournament.

Since his debut at age 18 against South Africa in June 2017, Osimhen has grown into a dominant figure in the Eagles setup, scoring 20 goals at the senior level. Now 25, Nigerians expect him to terrorise opposing defences and bag goals in Cote d’Ivoire.

The reigning African Footballer of the Year has been in deadly form in front of goal. This season, he has scored eight goals in all competitions for Napoli and has become the Super Eagles’ fourth all-time top scorer. Osimhen is behind the late Rashidi Yekini (37), Segun Odegbami (22) and Yakubu Aiyegbeni (21).

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The former Wolfsburg, Charleroi and Lille attacker will seek to use the tournament to ramp up his goal tally for the Eagles.

Alex Iwobi

Fulham midfielder Alex Iwobi keeps a low profile on the pitch, but his vision, skilful passing and work rate have made him the focal point of Nigeria’s attack in recent years.

The Arsenal product was one of the scapegoats for the Super Eagles’ ouster against Tunisia after being sent off in the last edition of the Africa Cup of Nations.

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The playmaker was however impressive during qualification for Ivory Coast 2024 and at club level in the colours of Fulham, and he will be hoping to continue his fine form at the tournament.

Ademola Lookman

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Lookman has the grace of a swan around the opponent’s box. A key member of the attacking unit of the Super Eagles, the Atalanta man is a sure bet to start in Ivory Coast.

The former England youth international can open up spaces in the opponent’s half with quick darting runs and rapid one-twos.

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He already has nine goals and three assists in all competitions for Atalanta in the 2023/24 season.

Ola Aina

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The Forest player’s versatility will be important for the Eagles during the tournament.

Aina, who can cover every blade of the pitch, has been part of the Eagles fold since 2017.

He is able to flourish as a left-back and right back and he is also a threat offensively.

Victor Boniface

The Bayer Leverkusen forward is one of those who will carry Nigeria’s hopes of rejuvenation under Jose Peseiro.

The Real Sapphire product, who has so far enjoyed a stellar season with Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, is armed with good dribbling skills that can cut open any opposition defence. Boniface is also adept at using his blistering speed to circumvent defenders.

With 16 goals and 8 assists in 23 matches for Leverkusen so far this term, Boniface will be keen to make a name for himself at the continental competition.

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