30 January 2013

Nigeria/Cote d'Ivoire: Super Eagles Need to Up Their Game Against Ivorians

Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Chelsea's Victor Moses scored both Nigeria's goals off penalties.

Nigeria's passage through to the quarter-finals of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations has been met by the team with relief more than anything else.

A 2-0 victory over Ethiopia on Tuesday sealed their entry to the knockout stages, but although the win was deserved, it was a far from convincing performance.

There is no doubt the side will have to be vastly improved if they are to get past quarter-final opponents Cote d'Ivoire, who look as though they are beginning to get close to top gear.

But there was almost a sense of "job done" from the Nigerian contingent on Tuesday night. Few would doubt that going out in the first round would have been disastrous and probably cost coach Stephen Keshi his job.

That looks safe now, as a quarter-final defeat to the best team in Africa is likely to be met with a bit more sympathy at home.

Keshi looked a relieved figure in the post-match press conference, offering praise to the opposition and philosophically looking forward to the Ivorian clash.

"[I have] a lot of respect for the Ethiopian team because it is a quality team. We knew it wasn't going to be easy because they love to play football just like we like to play," Keshi said.

"This victory is a victory for Nigerians. It's something that I've been waiting for so long to make Nigerians everywhere in the world happy.

"Taking on Cote D'Ivoire is a different ball game, it is a different mentality - everything is different because it is not going to be the same as preparing against Ethiopia or the last two teams we played against."

Ethiopia rather limped out of the tournament, but would have learnt a lot from the experience.

If they can build on this showing and use it to improve, then it will stand them in good stead for the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers later this year. There they are handily placed at the top of Group A, which also includes South Africa, the Central African Republic and Botswana.

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