Nigeria eyes showdown against Ivory Coast

Nigeria started thinking about its quarterfinal matchup against

tournament favorite Ivory Coast immediately after escaping

elimination in Group C of the African Cup of Nations.

The two-time champions needed two late goals by Chelsea striker

Victor Moses to beat Ethiopia 2-0 on Tuesday, setting up the

encounter with star-filled Ivory Coast on Sunday in Rustenburg.

The Elephants have already secured first place in Group D and

will close play in the group against already eliminated Algeria on


”Our next match is against the favorites, it will be us or

them, there will be no second chance,” Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi

said. ”I have a plan in my head and I need to work on it in order

to make sure it comes right.”

Keshi is glad just to have a chance to be playing against the

Ivorians considering his team was on the brink of elimination

against Ethiopia in Rustenburg on Tuesday. A 0-0 draw would have

eliminated the Super Eagles from the tournament, but Moses came

through late with the penalty kicks to keep Nigeria alive.

”Now that we are in the quarterfinals we just have to keep

going and keep doing what we are doing in training and hopefully

we’ll defeat Ivory Coast and go to the semifinal. It’s going to be

tough though,” Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel said.

Nigeria finished second in Group C with five points. Burkina

Faso also had five, but was ahead because of a better goal

difference. Nigeria had led its first two games, too, but on both

occasions conceded equalizers.

The Super Eagles didn’t even qualify for last year’s tournament

and haven’t reached the final since 2000, when it lost to Cameroon

in a penalty shootout. It finished third in 2010.

The year’s team was revamped by Keshi, who was the team’s

captain when it won the African Cup the last time, in 1994.

”He’s come into the team and he’s made his stance,” Mikel

said. ”He said, `Either you want to play for the country or you

are out, and if you want to play you have to give 110 percent.’ I

think that’s what he demands from every player, and I think we’ve

come out here to do exactly what he wants us to do and to play for

Nigeria as well. I think he’ been fantastic.”

Keshi said he wants to restore Nigeria as a top African team in

international football, like it was in the 1990s.

”We tried to introduce young players plus seasoned players like

Mikel, (Joseph) Yobo, Vincent Enyeama that can direct them on the

field, give them the opportunity to play better,” Keshi said.

”Because when we are looking ahead it’s not just Cup of Nations,

how are we going to be an outstanding team for Nigeria in the next

five years?”

Yobo said he thinks Keshi is steering the Nigerians on the right


”We have young, dynamic and dedicated players who are learning

fast from those of us who are their seniors and they can go very

far in the tournament here and in subsequent tourneys to come,”

the Fernabahce defender said.

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