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Nigeria is already under pressure as the Ivory Coast challenge for the AFCON looms.

Nigeria’s Super Eagles are already facing challenges after just one game. Their chances of making it to the Africa Cup of Nations knockout stage would be severely compromised if they lost to Ivory Coast on Thursday.

The three-time champions were expected to defeat Equatorial Guinea easily, but a 1-1 draw in their opening match has left them in a difficult situation. The second not-win would be less than ideal, even with an extra four spots available for the top three teams.

For the Super Eagles, this isn’t exactly an unusual position. 2008 saw the Nigerians advance with a 2-0 victory over Benin, narrowly ahead of the Malians, after a first-round loss to Cote d’Ivoire and a draw against Mali.

Their 2013 championship team was on the verge of elimination after their first two games ended in draws. Still, they managed to advance with a 2-0 victory over Ethiopia in their final match.

After losses to underdog opponents, the current team has been accused of lacking the mental toughness and dedication necessary for those turnarounds.

Alex Iwobi, a midfield player, told the media that winning is the only way to change perception. Suddenly, you’ve given it your all, and winning is the only way to keep the criticism at bay.

“We understand it’s not going to be easy, but we’ll analyse the team and see what we can do.”

Following the first-day outcome, captain Ahmed Musa called a team meeting and stated, “We want to do our talking on the pitch so that everyone knows that we know the importance of what we are doing.” Musa was a little more direct.

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