Stephen Keshi's side go into the game firmly in the role of underdogs, against the team strongly tipped to lift this year's Africa Cup of Nations trophy
Ambrose, Oboabona, Omeruo, Elderson
Igiebor, Mikel, Nankwo
Musa, Emenike, Moses
Eboue, Bamba, K. Toure, Tiene
Ya Konan, Y. Toure, Zokora
Kalou, Drogba, Gervinho
And to further underline their readiness to win this title at last, they came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Algeria, so with all this in mind it is clear that the Eagles will have a tough task on Sunday. But that is the beauty of football – though Didier Drogba and his team are favourites, they must still prove it over 90 minutes or beyond on Sunday in Rustenburg.
The all-time head to head record is in Cote d’Ivoire’s favour with five wins against four for Nigeria and in the Afcon history, they have played five times with two wins each but the Ivorians have had the better in the recent past with two 1-0 victories in 2006 and 2008.
Sunday is another day, however, and the Eagles need to raise their game to match and fight the Elephants for a semi-final place.
The Ivorians will be pinning their transition in attack on Gervinho, as he has been in fine form for the Elephants, scoring two goals in two matches. There is also the powerhouse, Yaya Toure, who will most likely win the midfield battle against the Eagles.
But the Elephants have a dubious central defensive pairing of Soulemanye Bamba and Kolo Toure or Didier Zokora, and a slightly above average goalkeeper in Boubacar Barry. So the only chink in Cote d'Ivoire’s armour is targeting the middle of their defence, but will the Nigerians get that far in order to exploit this weakness?
It can be done but the players must completely buy into the concept that they will have to defend for 90 minutes and must be very disciplined in marking the spaces that Salomon Kalou and Gervinho will be looking to exploit. The Ivorians also have an inexperienced coach in Sabri Lamouchi – so if there is a hiccup to the favoured scenario, he could panic.
So it is defence into attack, using the classic grab and run format because man for man, Nigeria cannot withstand the Elephants.
Fegor Ogude will be absent, which is a body blow to the Eagles as he would have relished the battle with Yaya Toure, Didier Zokora and Ya Konan, who are expected to be the midfield trident for Cote d’Ivoire, but Mikel has been cleared for the match by Caf.
The last time both teams met at the Nations Cup in 2008, Salomon Kalou scored the only goal of that encounter. The Elephants, who are favourites for the title, will be hoping to re-enact that score line. This time the score line could be a mirror image of what has happened recently between both teams.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
Nigeria has won the Nations Cup twice while Cote d’Ivoire have won it once.
- Didier Drogba has scored 60 goals for Cote d'Ivoire.
- Joseph Yobo has now been capped by Nigeria 90 times.
- Didier Zokora (pictured) is the most capped Elephant with 109 caps.
- Nigeria will be hoping to make it a 10th semi-final appearance in 17 outings.
- Cote d’Ivoire is the first national team coaching job for 44-year old Sabri Lamouchi.