The Super Eagles have progressed to the round of 16 in the AFCON 2023, securing the second position in Group A with seven points. However, a closer examination of their goal-scoring performance raises concerns, particularly with prolific striker Victor Osimhen in their ranks. Osimhen, recently named Africa Player of the Year for 2023, boasts an impressive record of 26 goals in 29 appearances for club and country this year. Despite this, the Super Eagles have managed only three goals in the current AFCON tournament – a penalty against the hosts, an own goal against Guinea-Bissau, and a header in the match against Equatorial Guinea.
Playing as the designated No. 9 in his first AFCON as a key player, Osimhen has faced criticism for his goal-scoring performance despite his hard work and enthusiasm. In the group phase, Osimhen contributed to 32% of the team's 41 shots, with nine on target. However, he missed several significant goal-scoring opportunities, accounting for 70% of the team's offside calls. The Super Eagles, who create an average of 4.3 big chances per game, have struggled to convert these opportunities into goals.
Super Eagles coach Jose Peseiro remains confident in Osimhen's abilities, expressing optimism that he will find his scoring form in the upcoming matches. Peseiro emphasized Osimhen's importance to the team and acknowledged the tough competition in the tournament. Despite Osimhen's contributions to the team's challenges, Peseiro believes he will deliver in the next match, stating, "For our next match, Osimhen will score. He's important for the team. He's the top scorer, but this is a different tournament and tough competition."
A crucial aspect to consider is whether Osimhen is receiving adequate service from the playmakers. The analysis indicates that even when chances are created for him, Osimhen has either missed them or been caught offside. The limited contribution to chance creation by the wingers deployed by Peseiro, including Moses Simon, Ademola Lookman, and Samuel Chukwueze, has been evident. The wing-backs, Ola Aina and Zaidu Sanusi, have produced almost the same number of crosses compared to the three wingers.
The observed deficiency in synergy between the wingers and Osimhen seems to stem from their struggle to anticipate and connect with Osimhen's rapid movements along the defensive line. This impacts their ability to deliver effective crosses. To address this, Kelechi Iheanacho's deployment and the withdrawal of one winger may provide a solution. Iheanacho, with his understanding of Osimhen's movements and playmaking abilities, could enhance the team's attacking dynamics. Despite these challenges, Peseiro and many Nigerian fans remain hopeful that Osimhen will deliver in the crucial upcoming matches, including the encounter against Cameroon.