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AFCON 2023 Quarterfinal Preview: Nigeria vs Angola

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations is down to the final eight teams with several surprise names along a couple of African powerhouses. One traditional heavyweight, Nigeria, is now one of the favorites to capture the competition but they must overcome a prolific Angola team who are a much better team than the underdogs they are being portrayed to be. Read more below about both teams ahead of the first quarterfinal match on Friday:

Nigeria vs Angola- 17:00 GMT

Nigeria

After a successful season-and-a-half with Italian Serie A club Atalanta, Ademola Lookman is now enjoying a breakout AFCON with the Super Eagles with two goals against Cameroon in the Round of 16

Nigeria are substantial favorites against their less pedigreed opponents but the focus is on continuing to defend well against a Palancas Negras side that is excelling in attack. Coach José Peseiro and Nigeria midfielder Alex Iwobi acknowledged the difficulty of the opponent and Peseiro highlighted that his team will “attack with eleven and defend with eleven as well”. The Super Eagles have a talented attack that allows the counter-attacking tactics of Peseiro to thrive with a focus on defense.

The big news for Peseiro is that it appears goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali will be fit to play after being forced off late in the match against Cameroon. Nigeria’s focus on defense is reflected with a five-player defensive line which includes three central defenders: Fulham defender Calvin Bassey as well as veterans Semi Ajayi and William Troost-Ekong who is the captain. Ola Aina is the wingback on the right flank and Zaidu Sanusi is on the left, both players who can move forward to provide accurate crosses.

Frank Onyeka continues to excel as the defensive midfielder who will stay at home for his ball-winning duties in front of the defensive line. Alex Iwobi provides the link from defense to attack in the center with accurate passing to spring the speedy attackers that the Super Eagles are best known for. Ademola Lookman and Moses Simon are the attacking midfielders who can also move to the wing and make themselves available as outlets for counter-attacks. Star striker Victor Osimhen has not scored since the opening match against Equatorial Guinea but the Napoli man is making his presence felt by occupying the attention of defenders and creating space for players like Lookman, who scored both goals against Cameroon with the first from an assist by Osimhen.

Angola

Gelson Dala (L) and striker Mabululu (R) are the leaders of an Angolan attack that has produced nine goals in Ivory Coast, the most of any team still in the competition

Heading into the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, the full national team of Angola scored two goals in only two matches over the last year-and-a-half with both occasions coming against Central African Republic. A 3-0 victory over Bahrain in their final pre-tournament friendly set the tone for the Palancas Negras who have scored eight goals over their last three matches. Angolan supporters are excited for this team who can make history with the nation’s first-ever semifinal appearance at the AFCON with a victory on Friday. The team are enjoying the status of underdogs despite their excellent results so far and are confident.

Gelson Dala is a player who is firmly in the conversation for best player at the competition and is leading the potent attack with four goals and one assist so far. The left winger operates on the opposite flank from Petro de Luanda winger Gilberto who is also making an excellent impression as one of the few players thriving in the competition who plays in African club football. Goal poacher Mabululu is another player based in Africa who is gaining recognition at the age of 32 after scoring numerous goals for Egyptian club Al-Ittihad Alexandria.

Captain Fredy is the creative force in midfield whose passing and set piece abilities have led to three assists, the most of any active player in the competition. He will operate in front of defensive-minded midfielders Show and Estrela who will look to provide protection for the defensive line that is led by central defenders Kialonda Gaspar and Jonathan Buatu. Petro de Luanda fullbacks Eddie Alfonso (right flank) and Tó Carneiro (left) have earned the trust of head coach Pedro Gonçalves and will play from the beginning. Goalkeeper Antonio Dominique, a former Petro player himself now currently based in the third tier of Swiss football, will play between the sticks after regular starter Neblú received a red card in the Round of 16 victory over Namibia.

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