ABIDJAN : Nigeria’s underwhelming start at the Africa Cup of Nations finals, after being held to a 1-1 draw by tiny Equatorial Guinea in their opening Group A match, was no cause for concern, coach Jose Peseiro said.
“I’m said about the result but not with the capacity of our performance,” he said as his team failed to overcome a country whose population of 1.6-million is dwarfed by Nigeria’s 214-million people.
The small central African country were giantkillers at the last tournament two years ago and continued to punch above their weight as they went ahead when Iban Salvador netted a surprise opener against the run of play in the 36th minute.
But the lead lasted only two minutes before Napoli forward Victor Osimhen headed Nigeria level.
“We played a good game, we created many chances and clear opportunities, especially in the second half, and I think we deserved to win,” Peseiro told a press conference.
“If we keep up this dominance we will do well. Of course I’m not happy we drew but if the other side deserved their point, then I’d be concerned.”
The draw was the third in competitive internationals for the Super Eagles, after two disappointing results in their opening two World Cup qualifiers in November. They were held at home by Lesotho and then drew away against Zimbabwe.
“Obviously we need to improve finishing but it is not as if the players meant to miss their chances,” the Nigeria coach added.
He also said the hot and humid conditions had taken a toll and the pressure from disgruntled home fans did not help. “It is not easy to wear the Super Eagles shirt,” Peseiro said.
Next up for Nigeria is potential crunch game against hosts Ivory Coast on Thursday, where there would be a hostile atmosphere to deal with.
“But I think my players prefer to play in front of 60,000 rather than the 8,000 we had today.”
In 19 previous Cup of Nations finals appearances, Nigeria have only twice failed to advance past the first round but could face early elimination if they lose to the Ivorians.