The Super Eagles ended Cote d'Ivoire and Didier Drogba's hopes of continental glory, advancing to the semifinals on the strength of Sunday Mba's game-winning goal.
The golden generation of the Ivory Coast came to the end of the road, as the Elephants were usurped by Stephen Keshi's plucky Super Eagles at the King Bafokeng Stadium, with Nigeria advancing to the Africa Cup of Nations semifinals with a 2-1 victory.
Nigeria took the lead against the lethargic Elephants through a wonderful Emmanuel Emenike strike, before Cheikh Tiote equalized with a header just after the interval. In an engrossing second half, Sunday Mba wrote his name in Naija folklore by finishing a hopeful run with a deflected finish past Boubacar Barry.Victor Moses, Nigeria's savior against Ethiopia, was once again influential, with his tenacious running and ferocious speed constantly causing problems for the Ivorian defenders. Emenike was also looking to capture the form of the opening 45 minutes against Burkina Faso, although the striker fired over from near point-blank range in the first half.
With halftime approaching, Nigerian enterprise eventually paid off. Soon after Yaya Toure had been forced into a shoulder block to curtail Moses’s advance, the Super Eagles won a free kick 30 yards out. John Obi Mikel laid the ball off, and Emenike fired the ball over the wall into the goal to give Nigeria the lead.
The euphoria of the first half wasn’t to last into the second. Moments after Salomon Kalou had been cautioned for simulation in the Nigerian box, Didier Drogba was brought to ground by Efe Ambrose. It was the Super Eagles’ moment to look inert, and they were promptly punished as Tioté headed the ball past Vincent Enyeama.
The second half unrolled with both sides looking to attack, and creating a number of opportunities, and Mba converted to give Nigeria the win. Running boldly at the Ivorian defense, the striker, included in the squad at the expense of the likes of Peter Odemwingie and Obafemi Martins, sent a deflected shot up and over Boubacar Barry.
It prompted ecstatic scenes in Rustenburg, as Keshi's men played out a nervy final 10 minutes as the Ivorians pushed but could not find an equalizer to extend hopes of winning the continental title. Nigeria will face Mali with a place in the final on the line.