Leadership (Abuja)

3 February 2013

Africa: Eagles Tackle Elephants, As S/Africa Crash Out

Super Eagles will meet the Elephants of Cote D'ivoire today in a make or mar African Nations Cup quater-final encounter. In the last two competitive matches between both teams, the Super Eagles had lost by 1-0 score line. The form of Keshi's boys going into today's game is giving most Nigerians cause for concern and as such, most analysts are leaning towards the Yahaya Toure-led Elephants, taking the day.

Though the permutations are not too good for the Eagles, they can take solace from the fact that football is not played on paper. If they can lift their game and play disciplined and purposeful football, the balance of play could swing in their favour.

Meanwhile, Mali have beaten host South Africa 3-1 on penalties after their matched ended 1-1 after 120 minutes of play in Durban.

Siphiwe Tshabalala was the only player to score from the spot for South Africa in a match which saw the host nation take the lead through Tokelo Rantie, before his goal was cancelled out by Seydou Keita.

In the opening five minutes, South Africa really put pressure on Mali while the 50, 000 strong crowd made an electrifying noise inside the warm Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Six minutes in, some determined pressing by the host nation saw them get a chance on goal when Bernard Parker got into space, but his right-footed attempt from outside the danger area lacked power and direction.

Nine minutes in and Mali star player Seydou Keita rifled in a shot, which flew over the crossbar.

With Mali under serious pressure, in the 13th minute, May Mahlangu burst into the danger area, leaving two opponents in his wake. He pulled the ball back to Reneilwe Letsholonyane, but he hesitated to shoot and the momentum was lost.

Seconds later, South Africa spun the ball wide to Siboniso Gaxa and his excellent cross was met by Mahlangu on the run, but his header was always going to glance away from goal because of the angle he was running at.

Mali won their first corner of the game in the 19th minute, by rather fortunate circumstances, and had not even got close to the South African half of the field before that.

In the 22nd minute Mahlangu slipped through an excellent pass that turned the Mali defenders around. Tokelo Rantie chased it and had it not been for a brave save by Diakite Rantie would have had sight of goal.

... Jonathan To Hit South Africa

President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed willingness to be in South Africa for the final match of the 29th Africa Cup of Nations should the Super Eagles qualify.

According Minister/Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Bolaji Abdullahi who relayed the message to the team through the NFF president, Alhaji Aminu Maigari, he desires to be among the world's Heads of State to grace the closing ceremony inside the National Stadium which was hitherto known as Soccercity in Soweto on Sunday, February 10.

But the Eagles must overcome the Ivorian Elephants today and then win their semi final clash to see the president hit South Africa.

"President Jonathan has told me that he wants to be at the Final match, and that is only on condition that you are in the final. That is why you have to go all out, first against the Ivorians on Sunday. Let us take it one match at a time," said the minister.

The President spoke with each member of the team prior to the Group C clash with Zambia in Nelspruit on January 25.

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