Any future success that Nigeria may have in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations will almost certainly rely on the performances of Chelsea’s Victor Moses. The 22-year-old dragged his Super Eagles side through to the last eight with two penalties in the last 10 minutes against Ethiopia in Rustenburg. With the 1994 champions facing a disappointing group-stage exit, Moses stepped up and not only slotted home both spot-kicks but also earned them as well. Prior to the game, Nigeria had only scored twice in the competition – both from Emmanuel Emenike – and will head into their quarter-final fixture with Ivory Coast knowing that the performance of Moses could determine their fate. The midfielder has shown his potential on the domestic stage by producing a man-of-the-match winning performance in a victory against Manchester United. But now he must replicate that form and deliver yet again on the international stage – his team’s success may just hinge on it.
Having scraped out of Group C, Nigeria will now likely face the daunting task of overcoming the Ivory Coast if they are to progress any further in this years competition. Ranked 14th in the world by Fifa and boasting no less than 10 current or former Premier League players in their squad, the Elephants will pose a much sterner test than anything Stephen Keshi’s men faced in the group stage. With big hitters Gervinho and Yaya Toure leading the charge, Ivory Coast have not struggled to score and two wins in as many games in this years Afcon has made pleasant viewing for their head coach Sabri Lamouchi. To overcome last years runners-up in the quarter-final, the Super Eagles will defiantly have to find the back of the net while also tightening up a leaky defence that was responsible for to late goals against Zambia and Burkina Faso.
The 2012 reigning continental champions – who won the hearts of many fans after an emotional victory against Ivory Coast on penalties last year – become the first defending Africa Cup of Nations champions to be knocked out in the first round for 21 years. Zambia’s coach Herve Renard’s reassurance before the competition that his side would peak by 21 January has proved incorrect, as the holders could only manage another draw against Burkina Faso. The Stallions have come a long way and are not only progressing out of their group for the first time ever since they were hosts in 1948, but they are progressing to the quarter-finals as winners. After drawing with two former champions and thrashing Ethiopia, Burkina Faso have changed history but after tournament top-scorer Alain Traore departed the field with a muscle tear, will the Burkinabe’s have what it takes to go all the way without him?