The history books could be rewritten when the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations ends today, Sunday, February 11, 2024, Soccernet.ng reports.
Nigeria, aiming for a fourth continental title, face two-time winners and tournament hosts Cote d’Ivoire at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Ebimpe, Abidjan.
A win for Nigeria’s Super Eagles will make head coach Jose Peseiro the first Portuguese tactician to win the AFCON trophy in its 67-year existence.
Several European and South American coaches have succeeded in the continent’s biggest football festival, but never has a Portuguese managed to lift the AFCON Cup.
French coaches have won the trophy five times, Yugoslavians claimed it three times, Hungarian tacticians twice, and once each for Dutch, Brazilian, Romanian, Welsh, and Belgian coaches.
After an eventful coaching career, which includes winning the Taça da Liga with Braga in 2013 and losing the UEFA Cup final with Sporting Lisbon in 2005, Peseiro can lay his hands on the biggest prize in African football today.
“Obviously, it will be good for everyone to win this competition,” Peseiro said.
“Firstly, for Nigeria, which will achieve its objective. Then, for me and my technical team.
“I’ve had very good things in my career. I was on the verge of winning a UEFA Cup, and I won other things, but this trophy is very important, and I hope it comes to fruition.
“We have to be very strong to face a very good team.”
Since being appointed Super Eagles head coach, Peseiro has battled harsh criticisms and unpaid salaries.
Some even called for his sack after Nigeria drew their first two World Cup qualifiers in November.
A board member of the Nigeria Football Federation even admitted that the body would have considered dismissing Peseiro if they had the money to pay a new trainer.
Peseiro has thrived despite these harsh conditions because he believed in his players and his conviction that he had the resources to make Nigeria the champions of Africa again.
The former Braga boss added: “Since we arrived in the country, we set an objective that was more sporting than financial, and we thought it would be good to tackle this project, as we would have the conditions and players.
“The conditions are not what we would like, but it is not just the Nigeria team that is going through great difficulties.
“At least I had a group of top players and I believed we could form a great team and win the AFCON. From the beginning, it was the main objective.”
Three Portuguese coaches arrived in Cote d’Ivoire for the 34th edition of the continental championships.
Peseiro was joined by compatriots Pedro Gonçalves, who was in charge of Angola, and Rui Vitória, who handled Egypt.
Egypt were eliminated in the Round of 16 by DR Congo, while Angola reached the quarterfinals, where they fell to Peseiro and Nigeria.
Only Peseiro is left standing at the AFCON, and he is not unaware of the difficulty of winning the tournament.
“This competition is quite tough and has specificities that others don’t have,” Peseiro noted.
“There is fuss, political, social and economic burden and a great weight on all those involved because of what each selection represents.
“There is a lot of stress and a great need to win, especially due to the difficulties that many people go through in these countries.”
Nigeria are unbeaten in six games at AFCON 2023, and, with victory over Cote d’Ivoire, the Super Eagles could add to the three other trophies won in 1980,1994, and 2013.