Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg
February 3, 2013
Things have not gone well for the Super Eagles in past couple of years. The two time African champions performed dismally in 2010 World Cup which was followed by a failure to qualify for AFCON 2012. Their on-field under performances was coupled with off field problems regarding country’s Federation as Nigeria’s FIFA ranking plummeted down freely. Desperate for a turnaround, Nigeria began their AFCON 2013 campaign against Rwanda and emerged 2-0 winners over the two legs. They faced Liberia in the final play-off round. The first leg in Liberia ended 2-2 despite Nigeria leading 2-1 for most of the match. Nigeria made short work of their opponents in the return leg as Victor Moses scored two goals to help his country run out 6-1 victors.
Placed in a tricky group which contained defending champions Zambia, Nigeria opened their campaign against Burkina Faso. On 23rd minute John Obi Mikel and Ideye Brown combined to set up Emmanuele Emenike – the Spartak Moscow striker made no mistakes from close range. Nigeria continued to probe Burkinabe defence but their strikers, especially Ikechukwu Uche were guilty of fluffing some gilt edged chances. They were left to rue their profligacy in front of the goal when Alain Traore scored Burkina Faso’s equalizer with last kick of the game.
Lack of concentration would once again come back to haunt to Super Eagles when they faced off against defending champions Zambia in second match. The match never reached pre-match hype thanks to the poor condition of the pitch, which made it difficult for both sides to string passes. Nigeria were handed an early initiative when Davies Nkausu tripped Ahmed Musa and a spot kick was awarded. Mikel, however, hit the post. He made up for his mistake, 12 minutes into second half by assisting Emenike’s second goal of AFCON 2013. Zambia upped the ante after going behind and could count themselves lucky when they were awarded a controversial penalty on 85th minute for Ogenyi Onanzi’s foul on Emmanuel Mayuka. Zambian ‘keeper converted the spot kick as Nigeria were left once again to rue their inability to stitch up a result.
Each of the four teams had a chance of progressing to the quarter-finals when Nigeria squared off against Ethiopia in the last match. With 11 minutes left on the clock, the Super Eagles were heading home as the match remained goal-less; they would have been eliminated, having worse disciplinary record than Zambia. Nigeria went for the jugular from the start but were once again let down by poor finishing. However, their constant pressure finally paid off on 79th minute when Victor Moses was fouled by Girma inside the penalty box. Moses converted his penalty coolly to put Nigeria 1-0 up. The Chelsea winger managed to earn a second penalty eleven minutes later and once again converted it seal a 2-0 win and progress.
Nigeria is one of the few teams to employ a three striker formation in AFCON 2013. Victor Moses, with his pace and Emenike’s physical strength have been assets for the Super Eagles till now. Veteran Joseph Yobo was rested in the last match but should be back in starting XI to keep a check on Drogba.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Enyeama, Ambrose, Yobo, Oboabona, Echiejile, Mikel, Ogude, Mba; Uche, Emenike, Victor Moses
The highest ranked team in Africa has been overwhelming favourites is past few editions of AFCON but has somehow managed not to win it every time. Their golden generation is ageing and this might be the Elephants last chance to have a crack at AFCON title with Didier Drogba in helm.
The Ivoirians were paired with Senegal but were expected to cruise to the final stage of AFCON 2013. Didier Drogba and Co. fulfilled the expectations in first leg, running out 4-2 winners with Drogba and Gervinho among scorers. Senegal did get two away goals but any that advantage was soon nullified in their home leg as Drogba struck two goals in second half to put the Elephants 0-2 up. Two minutes after Drogba’s second goal, a penalty, hell broke loose as Senegal fans began throwing objects on the ground. Riots soon broke out as local law enforcement authorities had to use tear gas to calm down fans. Ivory Coast fans and players had to be escorted to safety. CAF later decided to ban Senegal completely from AFCON 2013 and award Ivory Coast a 2-0 victory.
Ivory Coast began their AFCON 2013 campaign with a 2-1 victory over Togo. Kolo Toure’s error almost led to an early Togo goal but his brother put Ivory Coast ahead five minutes later with a deflected shot. Buoyed by the opening goal the Elephants took a firm grip over the match and would have doubled their lead had Yaya Toure’s shot not hit the framework. Togo equalized completely against the run of play just before the half-time thanks to Ivoirian defence going to sleep while defending a corner. Didier Drogba had an off-day and Ivory Coast didn’t create too many concrete chances in second half. When it was looking that the game would end in another draw Yaya Toure once again provided the inspiration. His free-kick was volleyed in by Gervinho two minutes before the final whistle to round off the score.
There were no such drama in the second match against Tunisia as Ivory Coast controlled the match from start to end, romping to a comfortable win. Gerivinho opened the scoring on 21st minute after a wonderful one-two with Lacina Traore. Ivory Coast dominated the proceedings but the first half would not generate any more goals. They would score two late goals to put the result beyond doubt, one of them a 20 yard stunner from Yaya Toure, to stitch up a creditable win and deserved score-line. Their second consecutive win also made them the only team in AFCON 2013 to ensure quarter-final progress after two rounds.
A number of first teamers like Gervinho and Yaya Toure were rested when Ivory Coast took on already eliminated Algeria in an inconsequential match. Algeria made a bright start to the match and looked determined to break their duck in AFCON 2013 – they were yet to score in this year’s edition. They were awarded a penalty but Boudebouz’s shot bounced off the post as the first half ended goal-less. There were goals in second half, four to be exact. Algeria broke the deadlock on 64th minute when Sofiane Feghouli made no mistakes from the spot to score two minutes after coming on. He turned assister six minutes later as El Arbi Hillel Soudani doubled Algeria’s advantage. Ivory Coast responded in style scoring two goals in four minutes and snatching a 2-2 draw.
Ivory Coast is likely to field a 4-2-3-1 formation with Didier Drogba as the lone striker. The EPL triumvirate of Kalou, Yaya Toure and Gervinho are likely to play behind him. Ivory Coast’s defence which didn’t concede a single goal in AFCON 2012 has already been breached thrice in three matches. Their backline needs to have an error free match against Nigeria.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Barry; Emmanuel Eboué, Kolo Touré, Sol Bamba, Siaka Tiéné; Cheick Tioté, Didier Zokora; Salomon Kalou, Yaya Touré, Gervinho; Drogba
Côte d’Ivoire 3-1 Nigeria
Undoubtedly the clash of this round, this quarter-final will pit two of the biggest names in the continent against each other. Ivory Coast’s form in AFCON 2013 as well as the general quality of their squad, which is second to none in Africa, gives them a significant edge in this match. Barring an upset the Elephants should reach fourth semi-final in past five AFCON appearances.