Cote d'Ivoire vs Nigeria: AFCON’s ‘unofficial final’ comes early

Feb 02, 2013

It has been two weeks of enthralling and exciting football across five South African cities. After hosting the World cup, it’s understandably so that the African Cup of Nations has lacked the buzz generated by the 2010 world cup, with the thrill only reaching near fever pitch when Bafana Bafana takes the field.

Sunday’s game in Rustenburg has been billed as the ‘final before the final’ by the fans of both teams, hanging to the belief that their national team will make the February 10 final at the National stadium.

A flattering conclusion for thousands of Nigerian supporters in South Africa who have consistently threw their weights behind Super Eagles unsteady flight unshaken by the pessimism and criticism back home.

Most Nigerians have already written off their teams’ chances against the Ivoirians, disconcerted by their team’s score draws (1-1) against Burkina Faso and Zambia rounded off by a laboured 2-0 win over Ethiopia and not bothered by the results of their past five AFCON encounters, each having secured two wins and a draw.

Everyone expects us to lose this match, Moses 

“Everyone expects us to lose this match. But we just put our heads down and come Sunday we will cause a little upset, “offered Chelsea forward Victor Moses, one of the 17 Nations Cup debutants in the Nigerian team, who scored twice from the penalty spot in Tuesday’s game.

“We chose not to listen to what is being said because people believe they will beat us because of the players they parade, but we are equal to the task.”

The star-studded Ivoirians is one of the most compact sides at the tournament and is considered the cream of the crop.

It’s the best chance for the 2012 AFCON finalist, whose golden generation led by their captain Didier Drogba, has constantly shown that they can win a trophy.

So can the Elephants experience stop the youthful but highly rejuvenated Nigerian team looking to rebuild their diminishing fortunes in African football?

Can Ivorian golden stars win the cup?

“This is a crucial match,” said Sabri Lamouchi, the Ivorian coach who will have all his players at his disposal. “

Nigeria is a great football nation. We will have to be highly determined and very rigorous. We have no room for error.”

The Elephants last African Cup triumph was in 1992 and the 2013 tournament offers the exceptional Drogba, Kolo Toure best chance to claim the crown they so desperately want to win.

Like his Nigerian counterpart captain Joseph Yobo Drogba knows that whoever wins this battle could ultimately win the AFCON cup.

The midfield duel between Chelsea’s Mikel Obi and Yaya Toure of Manchester City should make for an interesting watch. Nigeria will be without suspended Fengor Ogude in the midfield.

It’s a match the vuvuzela-touting Bafana fans will be watching keenly in the hope that their team who play Mali Saturday night at Moses Mabhida stadium in the coastal city of Durban confronts the winner of the late match.

 

Evelyn Watta in Rustenburg

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