Despite losing 2-1 to Nigeria on Sunday in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals, Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba hailed the Super Eagles for their inspiring outing at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium and said the team could win the tournament if they perform against others like they did against them.

“I was very impressed with the Super Eagles’ performance against us (Ivory Coast). It’s proof of hard work, relentlessness and the sign of a world-class team in preparation,” he said, after the game that shattered the Afcon dream of the highly-rated Ivorian side.

“I don’t really see any team that can withstand Nigeria for the rest of the tournament. They keep improving by each game and level of the competition. That shows it’s a hardworking and resilient outfit. If they must take the trophy home they have to keep working, be creative and challenge any side like they engaged us.

“Wishing for and seeing victory is not enough. I feel this is Nigeria time but they must deserve it by proving it more on the pitch. The fact that the team arrived with a number of home-based players means we have to give them praise because that tells us there is football even within the continent,” he said.

The former Chelsea striker also sent comforting words to his home fans, a number of whom are holding him responsible for the team’s debacle at the tournament.

“Fans ought to know that football is sometimes funny and bizarre. Sometimes you play well and you lose and others time you don’t put up a good game but you win. We did our best, it didn’t work out. We’re taking responsibility and also thanking fans and asking them to bear with the team that better days are definitely ahead.”