Nigeria eyes showdown against Ivory Coast
RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) -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 Wednesday.
"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 track.
"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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