Nigeria can look forward to a “better chapter” under new coach Jose Peseiro despite losing their first two games as coach of the West Africans.
The Super Eagles suffered back-to-back defeats to World Cup contenders Mexico and Ecuador in friendly matches in the United States.
Mexico won 2-1 in Dallas last Saturday and Pervis Estupinan’s early goal for Ecuador decided a fine encounter in New Jersey on Thursday.
Peseiro taken last month after Nigeria were knocked out in the last 16 of the Nations Cup in Cameroon earlier this year missed out on a spot at the 2022 World Cup in Africa’s play-offs in March.
“We’ve had two games under the new manager and that will help us in our upcoming qualifiers,” captain William Troost-Ekong told BBC Sport Africa.
“Obviously when you play against South American teams the styles are different and the team is tested very hard mentally and physically.
“We can all come together for a better chapter for the country.”
Nigeria hosted the two friendlies ahead of the start of the Africa Cup of Nations 2023 qualifying campaign, which begins on Thursday.
The Super Eagles host Sierra Leone behind closed doors in Abuja in their Group A opener before meeting Sao Tome e Principe in the Moroccan city of Marrakech four days later.
Peseiro “proud” of performing in the USA
Peseiro was without a few key players in North America but believes his exhausted side have shown great character and improved in less than a week together.
“I’m very proud of the players because their reaction to defeat gave me a good reason to be happy,” said Peseiro.
“We didn’t play well against Mexico in the first half. But [against Ecuador] The last 30 minutes were great. We just didn’t show up for the first 15 minutes and then conceded. The second half was much better.”
Former Venezuela coach Peseiro said he felt “hard hit” after referee Ricardo Araya’s decision not to award a penalty against Ecuador after a tackle against Terem Moffi and Troost-Ekong.
“At least we deserved a penalty in that game against Ecuador,” added the Portuguese.
“If we had equalized it could have changed the game. We played better than we did against Mexico and I hope we can take that positive into the game against Sierra Leone.”
“We built up more pressure and opportunities. We only trained twice [before playing] against Mexico, but now we’re better than we were in the first game.”
In the absence of Peter Etebo and the injured Wilfred Ndidi, the side lacked experience in midfield but at the back goalkeeper Francis Uzoho shone while centre-back Calvin Bassey was superb for the three-time African champions.
Players such as Victor Osimhen, Kelechi Iheanacho, Leon Balogun, Samuel Chukwueze, Ademola Lookman, Odion Ighalo and Ahmed Musa are expected to return when Nigeria take on Sierra Leone.