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Nigeria's Super Eagles stuns Ivory Coast to reach Semi-final
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Nigeria v Ivory Coast
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Nigeria v Ivory Coast
By Ayodele Odumade
The Super Eagles of Nigeria knocked the Elephants of Ivory Coast out of the African Cup of Nations 2-1. It was a stunning display of guts and courage by the youthful team of Nigeria who saved their best performance so far in this tournament until today.
In the 4th minute, Siaka Tiene fired a free kick into the Nigerian wall. Three minutes later, Nigeria had a free kick which was taken by Victor Moses but Ideye Brown who got under the ball headed over.
In the 9th minute, Moses hit a shot, which was saved by Boubacar Barry.
In the 26th minute, Brown picked up the ball committed defenders and rolled the ball to Emenike, who should have given Nigeria the lead but blazed his shot wide.
In the 42nd minute, Nigeria were awarded a free kick 30 yards from the Ivorian goal. Mikel Obi rolled the ball to Emmanuel Emenike, whose rocket of a shot flew past Barry to give Nigeria the lead. It was no more than the Nigerians deserved on the balance of play. The Nigerians went in 1-0 at the break.
In the 49th minute, Ivory Coast drew level. Efe Ambrose brought Didier Drogba down and from the resultant free kick floated into the box, Cheik Tioté who was left unmarked headed past Vincent Enyeama who got his hands on the ball but could keep it out. It was such a big blow for Nigeria to concede just four minutes after half time.
After a poor showing in the first half, the Ivorians were now in the ascendancy. Tiote had a shot blocked by Godfrey Oboabona.
In the 65th minute, Moses put a fantastic corner into the box but Brown head it straight into the ground, which gave the Barry a chance to gather at the second attempt. A minute later, the Ivorians broke down the other end and Enyeama saved a fierce shot from Yaya Toure.
Both teams played end to end stuff looking for that killer goal. The goal duly arrived in 78th minute, when Sunday Mba picked on the ball and went on a slalom run. As he approached the edge of the Ivorian box, he unleashed a shot, which took a wicked deflection to take the ball past Barry and give Nigeria the lead again! The Ivorians were stunned as they had the wind knocked out of them by a vibrant Nigerian side, which believed in themselves despite the criticism from home and abroad.
In the 85th minute, the ball fell to Lacina Traoré in the box but before he could pull the trigger, Obi, who had tracked back, toe poked the ball away from danger for a corner. Unlike in previous games when Nigeria conceded late goals, they were much wiser and took the ball into the corner to protect their lead.
The referee played four added minutes but the Nigerian team stood firm and would not be denied. Stephen Keshi must take all the plaudits for being bold and brave by making the necessary changes to get the team playing decent football like they used to in the past. Enyeama who once again had a good game has become something of a talisman. Nigeria has never failed to win a quarter final in which Enyeama has played in.
Back to Keshi, he has been heavily criticised for lacking the knowledge and depth to take this Nigerian team forward. This quarter final victory over an Ivorian side that were meant to be the favorites will go a long way to silencing his critics. This victory could also turn out to be a pivotal moment on the road to recovery of Super Eagles, who were once dubbed super chickens.
As for the Ivory Coast team, it appears they simply thought all they had to do was turn up and victory would be theirs. They looked lethargic and a shadow of themselves. It appears that once again the pressure got to them and the golden generation is yet to fulfill its potential to win this tournament. This possibly could be the last tournament for the likes of Drogba. But nothing is certain in football though. Who knows?
Nigeria will now vie for a place in the final on Wednesday against Mali. They would fancy themselves but they need to err on the side of caution. Just ask Ivory Coast!