Super Eagles stun star-studded Ivory Coast to book semifinal spot
Eish!: Nigeria’s Ideye Brown fluffed a good chance to grab the lead in the eighth minute when he headed over the bar instead of picking a spot. The Super Eagles’ Emmanuel Emenike missed the best chance to give his side the lead in the 26th minute when he shot over the crossbar with only Boubacar to beat.
Saves of the match: Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama made a double save in the 67th minute to deny striker Yaya Toure and Gervinho the chance to make it 2-1.
Nigeria has secured a place in the semifinals of Africa Cup of Nations following a hard-fought 2-1 victory over favourites Ivory Coast in a thrilling match played at Rustenburg’s Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
The Super Eagles will now meet Mali at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Wednesday (8.30pm).
The victory will ease the pressure on Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi. His youthful squad’s chances of progressing were doubted by their own fans prior to the clash against star-studded Ivory Coast.
The last time Nigeria won the trophy was in 1994 and they failed to go past the quarterfinals in 2010.
This afternoon’s game was tense and too tactical from the start as both teams did not want to make errors. Both teams relied on steady build-ups, with Ivory Coast using their flanks to launch their attack, while Nigeria penetrated through the centre of the pitch in search of the lead.
Nigerian midfielder Ideye Brown fluffed a good chance to grab the lead in the eighth minute when he headed over the bar instead of picking a spot. Two minutes later, Nigeria almost got rewarded when striker Victor Moses’ goal-bound thunderous shot was punched back into play by Ivory Coast keeper Barry Boubacar.
The Super Eagles’ deadly striker, Emmanuel Emenike, missed the best chance to give his side the lead in the 26th minute when he shot over the crossbar with only Boubacar to beat, after receiving a great pass from Sunday Mba. This was after
Ivory Coast central midfielder Romaric N’Dri‘s back-pass was intercepted by Mba.
Emenike caught the Elephants rearguard by surprise in the 43rd minute when his thunderous free kick from 25 yards went into the roof of the net, giving Boubacar no chance to ensure his side has a cushion at halftime. However, Ivory Coast almost grabbed the equaliser on the stroke of halftime when N’Dri’s curling free kick was just wide.
Ivory Coast came back strong in the second half, keeping the Nigerian defence on the back foot and their efforts paid off in the 49th minute when midfielder Cheik Tiote levelled matters when he headed home Didier Drogba’s free kick, to the delight of the vocal fans. The goal brought the spark into the game with action swinging from end to end.
Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama made a double save in the 67th minute to deny striker Yaya Toure and Gervinho the chance to make it 2-1 from the rebound.
Mba grabbed the winner in the 78th minute when he lobbed ball over a bemused Boubacar after dribbling past the Elephants defence like a hot knife running through butter.