Mon 4 Feb '13
| © supersport.com
Few expected Nigeria would prevail against favourites Ivory Coast in the 2013 Afcon quarterfinal clash on Sunday with with pundits having already written them off and tipping the Ivorians to progress.
But the 1994 Afcon winners soared their way into victory and once again brought back the memories of the mighty Super Eagles who crushed any team in their way in themed nineties.
As for Cote d’Ivoire, they once again failed to cross the finish line, hence, becoming a golden failure despite boasting a team composition that has attracted the best in the world and the continent.
Supersport.com examines the reasons why the Elephants were silenced in Rustenburg on Sunday.
The planets do not seem to align in a way that makes decision interfered with when it comes to the star studded side.
In 2008, they were so unstoppable making majority believe they would lift the title in Accra but they met an Egyptian side that made them stay on their lane courtesy of a 4-1 thrashing with Amr Zaki the chief architect.
Same goes to 2010, Salamon Kalou doubled the lead in 89th minute against Algeria to almost secure a semifinal berth but they conceded in the injury time from Madjid Bougherra and went ahead to lose to the North African side in extra time.
The previous edition seems to summarize it all, Drogba missed penalty in the 70th minute, and when the final went to penalties, Gervinho and Kolo Toure missed to hand over the crown to the Chipolopolo.
This remains an open debate.
2. Favourites tag
No doubt the Ivorians were the best team in the tournament when you looked at their squad on paper.
However, they might have let their status get into the heads and we know what happens with that. They did not respect their opponents Nigeria who drew with Burkina Faso, Zambia and won against Ethiopia.
Chances are they expected a walk in the park, after all, they have always been the best on the paper. But the Super Eagles gave them a run for their money, they countered every move they made and at some point subdued them and controlled the game which made the 2012 finalists look disoriented after being outwitted in tactics.
Cote d’Ivoire lost because Nigeria was superior to them. Period.
Excuses should not be given that goalkeeper Barry did not have a good day in the office. The Nigerians, simply turned up, played according to their game plan and stuck with the mission which they executed successfully.
Emmanuel Emenike’s freekick was well taken and no keeper in the tournament could have stopped that. Sunday Mba’s strike was even more beautiful to sink their opponents.
Hence, like Dennis Bergkamp once said: “Before you kick a ball, there must be a thought.”
Simply the Eagles played with their heads unlike Elephants who opted to resort to their heart and we know that emotions have a big role on a field of play, the cookie crumbles with every second ticking.
Over the years, the Ivorians have proved they just cannot help but bottle their chances when they need to rise to the occasion.
Maybe they cannot handle the nerves. They appeared out of sorts on Sunday and this could be explained by the individual mistakes made by some of their players which cost the team.
The golden generation have since 2006 been on the spotlight for this not so pleasing streak and the pile of pressure mounted on them could have just been their main undoing.
Football is a team sport. Nigeria looked more united than a divided Cote d’Ivoire on the pitch.
We understand at times individual glory can throw a spanner in the works in a fixture but with the intensity and nature of the fixture, if you play with each other you are likely to grind out results.
Nigeria had nothing to lose and despite being criticized before that some of their players give their all at clubs level than country, this was the match that they proved most critics wrong as they decided to play for the name in front of their shirt and hope that one day people will remember the name at the back as once said by Tony Adams who played for Arsenal.
These are few of the many reasons the Ivorians never succeeded where they were expected to.