Nigeria AFCON final predicted starting XI: Osimhen to spearhead Super Eagles glory?

Our Nigeria AFCON final predicted starting XI has already been made ahead of Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final against hosts Ivory Coast. In this article, we have profiled each player we believe will start for the Super Eagles, and analyse the tournament they have had so far.

Nigeria AFCON final predicted starting XI:

Stanley Nwabali

Nwabali was a lesser-known name in the Nigeria squad before AFCON started, playing his club football for Chippa United in the South African top flight. The 27-year-old had earned just two senior caps for his country prior to AFCON, but has played every game on route to the final.

Conceding twice and keeping four clean sheets in normal time, Nwabali also saved two spot-kicks in Nigeria's 4-2 penalty shootout win over South Africa in the semi-final, making himself an instant hero.

  • First goalscorer – N/A
  • Anytime goalscorer – N/A
  • To score a hat-trick – N/A
  • To be booked – 13/2
Photo by Icon Sport

William Troost-Ekong

There is no doubt Troost-Ekong has been a key player for Nigeria, and a standout player in the tournament. The centre-back has scored two goals, both penalties, including the winner against fellow finalists Ivory Coast in the group stage. He was also reliable from the spot in Nigeria's penalty shootout win against South Africa in the semi-final.

No Super Eagles player has made more clearances (4.4) or blocks (0.4) per match than Troost-Ekong at AFCON, while he also ranks second for average aerial duels won (3.6) and passes completed (35). Nonetheless, Troost-Ekong, who plays his club football for PAOK, will certainly draw attention from other clubs when he returns to Greece.

  • First goalscorer – 28/1
  • Anytime goalscorer – 11/1
  • To score a hat-trick – 1000/1
  • To be booked – 4/1

Semi Ajayi

Ajayi is one of five players in the squad to have started every AFCON game so far, and he has played the most minutes (571). Partnering Troost-Ekong at centre-back, he has helped keep four clean sheets, showing the rock-solid performances he is known for at West Brom.

Ajayi has also ranked highly among the Super Eagles squad in a number of other key metrics, and the 30-year-old's experience could help get them over the line.

  • First goalscorer – 40/1
  • Anytime goalscorer – 20/1
  • To score a hat-trick – 1000/1
  • To be booked – 9/2

Ola Aina

Aina has also started every game for Nigeria so far, and has been part of a solid defence that has hardly given anything away. The full-back plays for Nottingham Forest in the Premier League, and has learned his skillset in the toughest league in the world.

Aina ranks highly among his teammates for average tackles (two), interceptions (one), key passes (1.3) and crosses (0.7) per game in AFCON, and has established himself as a key player.

  • First goalscorer – 66/1
  • Anytime goalscorer – 33/1
  • To score a hat-trick – 1000/1
  • To be booked – 4/1

Bright Osayi-Samuel

Osayi-Samuel has made more appearances off the bench (three) than starts (two) at AFCON so far, but we believe he will be in from the start in Sunday's final.

The Fenerbahce man has been a useful outlet for Nigeria with his pace and dribbling ability, as only Samuel Chukwueze (1.3) has averaged more dribbles per game than him (one) in the Super Eagles squad, while his 92.4% pass accuracy is also among the best.

  • First goalscorer – 33/1
  • Anytime goalscorer – 14/1
  • To score a hat-trick – 1000/1
  • To be booked – 4/1
Photo by Icon Sport

Calvin Bassey

Like Aina, Bassey also plays in the Premier League with Fulham, and his defensive skills have certainly been on show at AFCON – no Nigerian player has averaged more tackles per match (2.8) than him.

He also averages more passes per game (36.5) than anyone else in the squad, making him a complete defender, and will be key if Nigeria go all the way.

  • First goalscorer – 50/1
  • Anytime goalscorer – 25/1
  • To score a hat-trick – 1000/1
  • To be booked – 5/1

Frank Onyenka

Onyenka plays his club football just a few miles from Fulham for Brentford in the Premier League, and has started every match for Nigeria at AFCON so far.

No Super Eagles player has averaged more interceptions (1.8) per match in the tournament than the defensive midfielder, who will be key in stopping fast Ivory Coast attacks.

  • First goalscorer – 33/1
  • Anytime goalscorer – 14/1
  • To score a hat-trick – 1000/1
  • To be booked – 5/2

Alex Iwobi

Iwobi is Bassey's teammate at Fulham, and is an icon in Nigerian football having made 63 senior caps for the Super Eagles. The midfielder has also played in every game at AFCON so far, and should be in line for another start in the final.

Iwobi ranks highly in the squad for average shots (1.2) and long balls (3.7) per game, and will be the team's main source of creativity in the final.

  • First goalscorer – 18/1
  • Anytime goalscorer – 8/1
  • To score a hat-trick – 1000/1
  • To be booked – 7/1

Moses Simon

Simon is one of Nigeria's biggest attacking threats, and will be looking to supply the likes of Victor Osimhen and Ademola Lookman in attack. He has one assist to his name already, and will be looking for more in the final.

The winger boasts three goals and five assists for Nantes in Ligue 1 this season, and although he has not replicated similar numbers at AFCON so far, he will still be one to watch for Ivory Coast in the final.

  • First goalscorer – 14/1
  • Anytime goalscorer – 6/1
  • To score a hat-trick – 1000/1
  • To be booked – 17/2

Victor Osimhen

Osimhen has not lit up AFCON as much as he would have liked, but the Napoli superstar still remains a key player for his country. He has one goal and assist to his name in the tournament, and will be looking to add to that in the final.

In the Nigeria squad, no player has won more aerial duels (4.7) or averaged more shots (four) per match than him, and some will forget he was the top scorer in AFCON qualifying.

  • First goalscorer – 27/5
  • Anytime goalscorer – 12/5
  • To score a hat-trick – 125/1
  • To be booked – 13/2
Адемола Лукман
Photo by Icon Sport

Ademola Lookman

Lookman is currently on three goals for the tournament, and is the only player who could realistically catch Emilio Nsue (five) at the top of the charts and win the Golden Boot. That would require a hat-trick in the final, but given his form we would not put it past him!

He also has one assist to his name, while no Nigerian player has averaged more key passes (2.2) or crosses (1.2) per match at AFCON than him. Lookman has been the Super Eagles' standout attacking player, and is sure to have a say in the final.

  • First goalscorer – 10/1
  • Anytime goalscorer – 23/5
  • To score a hat-trick – 475/1
  • To be booked – 5/1

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Adam Clancy

Adam is a lead writer on Football Whispers. He is a big Arsenal fan, and also follows his local club Wealdstone, made famous by The Wealdstone Raider, of whom he has interviewed. Adam also follows darts, boxing, cricket and tennis, among many other sports.