Heavyweights light up Rustenburg
Nigeria will square up against pre-Afcon favourites, Cote d'Ivoire in the biggest quarterfinal clash at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg this Sunday.
The Elephants of Cote d'Ivoire are favourites to progress in this tie, as they are ranked Africa's number one and nine places ahead of their West African rivals, Nigeria's Super Eagles.
The depth of the Ivorian squad speaks volume with the like of Didier Drogba, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, Lacina Traore, Romaric, the Toure brothers, Kolo and Yaya among others.
So far in this tournament, Cote d'Ivoire head coach, Sabri Lamouchi has used up 20 players in three games while his Nigerian counterpart, Stephen Keshi, has given 16 players the chance to make appearances in same number of matches.
In spite of the depth in Cote d'Ivoire's squad, Lamouchi and midfielder Yaya Toure have refused to write off Nigeria.
"Nigeria may be less experienced than previous Super Eagles squads but they have very young and talented players," said Lamouchi during Friday's pre-match conference in Rustenburg.
And Yaya Toure deflected the favourites tag saying: “I really don’t like talking about an upcoming match but I think Nigeria has a very good team and the match on Sunday will be tough. We are not favourites because the Africa Cup of Nations is very strong and I think the real favourites are Nigeria, Burkina Faso and others.”
Chelsea winger, Victor Moses, whose double set up Nigeria with Cote d'Ivoire, also acknowledged that the match will be tough for both teams.
"We are just concentrating on ourselves at the moment. We just want to do our best. It’s going to be a hard game for us, but it’s also going to be a hard game for them," Moses told Fifa.com.
The Super Eagles surely have their work cut out with midfield enforcer, Fegor Ogude, ruled out of this clash meaning Keshi will have to come up with a fresh game-plan to stifle the impressive Ivorians in the middle of the park.
For the Ivorians, this tournament offers most of their players in the twilight of their international career a last chance of an African title and losing to the Super Eagles will end that dream.
Ahead of this tie, the Elephants have the psychological edge having won the last two meetings against the Super Eagles in 2006 and 2008 editions of the Afcon with identical scorelines of 1-0.