2 February 2013

Nigeria/Cote d'Ivoire: Super Eagles Will Seriously Challenge Ivorians

Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Emmanuel Emenike of Nigeria shoots at goal during the quarter-final against Cote d'Ivoire in Rustenburg, South Africa.

Tournament favourites Cote d'Ivoire will have a serious test of their championship credentials when they take on Nigeria in a 2013 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final in Rustenburg on Sunday.

Nigeria might not be the force of old, but they will still present a significant challenge to the Ivorians. It is a point made by Elephants coach Sabri Lamouchi, who has warned his side against complacency if they are finally to put recent disappointments behind them in this competition and lift a crown that has eluded them since 1992.

"This is a crucial match. Nigeria are a great football nation. We will have to be highly determined and very rigorous," Lamouchi said. "We have no room for error, especially because we are up against Nigeria and even the smallest error will cost us dearly."

Lamouchi has a full complement of players to select from and having rested some of his star names for the final Group D encounter with Algeria, they are feeling fresh.

"In the last match, we were lucky to be able to make a few changes thanks to our position on the table. So now we benefit from having the whole team available. There are no injuries," the coach said.

Nigeria go into the game as underdogs, but steadily improved as the pool phase went on. Coach Stephen Keshi has cut a more relaxed figure since his side advanced from Group C and says the players too are feeling relaxed.

"The atmosphere is good, the morale is good, everything is going very well," he said. "If you must win a trophy you must beat the biggest and best teams, so why should we be afraid of any team. The bigger they come the bigger they will fall."

It is admirable confidence from the coach, who must do without suspended midfielder Fegor Ogude for the game.

Recent history points to an Ivorian success. They beat Nigeria 1-0 in the semi-finals of the 2006 edition in Egypt, and by the same scoreline in the quarter-finals in 2008.

Overall they have met on five previous occasions in the Nations Cup, with two wins apiece and a draw.

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