Africa Cup of Nations 2013 favourites Ivory Coast face their first big test against Nigeria on Sunday at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, in the quarterfinals of the continental competition.
The team qualified for the second round of the tournament after their second Group D match, following two successive wins against Togo and Tunisia.
A draw against Algeria followed and the Elephants now meet up with one of Africa’s football greats to fight for a place in the semis.
But for the Selefanto national team coach Sabri Lamouchi, the discourse remains the same ahead of this crucial clash, given that the only alternative to qualification is a return trip home.
“As much as we don’t fear anyone, we don’t underestimate anyone either,” stated the French-Tunisian tactician on Friday in a press conference.
And it must be said that the Elephants appear confident.
“There is a sense of the collective, a solidarity, a passion to win that is important. That is what we have to hold on to. Our goal of six finals remains steadfast.
“Now, it’s Nigeria and we have to go and get this win to remain in the competition. It won’t be easy, but we have the players necessary to go and secure this victory on our way to continental glory,” stated Salomon Kalou.
While Sabri Lamouchi will have his whole team available for selection, the Nigerian national coach Stephen Keshi will be missing midfielder Fegor Ogude, who was awarded two yellow cards in the group phase.
Nigeria finished second in Group C at the end of the group phase, qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Afcon 2013 by beating Ethiopia 2-0, after being held to a draw by Burkina Faso and Zambia.
In their five past Africa Cup clashes, the two teams have each won twice, with one draw between them, but the Elephants dominated in their two most recent matches, winning 1-0 in both the Afcon 2006 semifinal and during the group phase of the 2008 edition.