Nigeria star Victor Osimhen said his team had “made a statement” in beating hosts Ivory Coast 1-0 at the Africa Cup of Nations on Thursday to close on a place in the last 16.
It feels good. Not an easy game of course. We knew the Ivorians would come strong against us,” Osimhen said after captain William Troost-Ekong’s 55th-minute penalty decided the Group A showdown at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium in Abidjan.
We came with a game plan and we executed it. I am happy about this win. It’s a big win for us and we keep on building on this momentum.
Nigeria were held to a 1-1 draw by Equatorial Guinea in their opening game at the tournament, a match in which Osimhen scored.
This result leaves them level on four points at the top of the section with Equatorial Guinea, who beat Guinea-Bissau 4-2 earlier on Thursday.
The Super Eagles know a draw in their last match against already-eliminated Guinea-Bissau will guarantee progress as one of the top two teams.
However, four of the best third-placed sides also advance to the last 16.
This game against Ivory Coast was a big statement game for us, said Osimhen, who won the decisive penalty after being brought down in the box by Ousmane Diomande.
We needed to win and make a statement in a competition like the AFCON.
It was important to start well. We waited for them in the midfield, waiting for them to make mistakes, but I am really happy about this win and we will keep on going from here.
The reigning African footballer of the year said he “really didn’t mind” that coach Jose Peseiro told Troost-Ekong to take the penalty rather than him.
Nigeria now face Guinea-Bissau in Abidjan on Monday and the three-time AFCON winners will be wary of a team that defeated them in qualifying in Abuja last March.
Osimhen said: We know them. We played them in qualifying and we know how dangerous they can be. We can never take any game lightly.