Afcon: Eagles, Elephants in royal showdown

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Winning is more important than vengeance — Yobo
West African heavy-weights Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire clash tomorrow in the headline game of the quarter finals of the 29th Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.

Both nations have met five times previously at the Cup of Nations with honours evenly shared – two wins each way and a draw.

The Ivorians won the most recent match-ups – 1-0 in the semi finals of the 2006 finals in Alexandria, Egypt and a 1-0 win in Sekondi-Takoradi in the group phase of the 2008 finals in Ghana.

Nigeria triumphed on penalty shoot-out after 2-2 draw in a famous 1994 semi final showdown in Tunis and also pipped their West African rivals 1-0 in a group phase affair in Algiers in 1990. The draw was in a group phase match in Lagos in 1980, with the Eagles going ahead to win the Cup.

At other levels, Nigeria came out the stronger in a quarter final clash at the 2008 Olympic Games Men’s Football Tournament, beating the Ivorians 2-0 in Chinquadao.

Former Super Eagles’ defender Benedict Iroha, who played a huge role in that 1994 semi final, and is here in South Africa, said on Wednesday: “The Ivorians have always been tough customers. I played

against them several times.

“I can never forget that 1994 semi final clash in Tunisia. Most of their players were my team-mates at ASEC Mimosas, including Michelle Bassole who scored their two goals, as well as Abdoulaye Traore and Aka Kouame.

“We got back into the game when Rashidi Yekini (of blessed memory) scored and I then exchanged passes with Jay-Jay Okocha to score the equalizer. We had chances to win it in the second half but their

goalkeeper, Alain Gou-amene, was something else. We eventually won on penalties and beat Zambia in the final to lift the trophy.” Nigerians are also unlikely to have forgotten the two teams’ clash in the 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifying race.

Algeria, which represented Africa at the World Cup in 1982 and 1986, were favourites when lumped in the same final qualifying group with Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. The Ivorians came from one goal behind to defeat Nigeria 2-1 in Abidjan but were turned back 4-0 in Lagos. The Eagles flogged Algeria 4-1 in Lagos and held out for a 1-1 draw in Algiers to reach their first-ever FIFA World Cup finals.

Tomorrow at the Royal Bafokeng, the royal showdown between these two teams will definitely come with plenty of fireworks and inferno.

“The Super Eagles are like the underdogs in this match,” said Chief Emeka Inyama, chairman of the NFF Media and Publicity Committee. “But it is good for us because the players will not feel any superiority complex and will approach the game with the right mentality, to prove bookmakers wrong.

“I feel that something good will happen on Sunday. The Eagles will fly.”

Winning is more important than vengeance — Yobo

Skipper Joseph Yobo has a frightening credential of playing in his six Nations Cup here in South Africa. Out of the six outings, he has suffered humiliation in the hands of Cote d’Ivoire twice.  Sunday would afford him an opportunity to get even with the boastful Elephants who said that they are going to fry the Nigerian Eagles and consume them in the open in South Africa.

“It’s true that I have lost twice to them in the cause of my many appearances. But I think that winning is more important to us than paying them back”, he said.

We’re ready for victory and we are working more on that than thinking of revenge

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