Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Keshi: character made the difference
Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Ivory Coast veteran Didier Drogba is denied a chance to win the title he craves
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi lauded his team’s discipline after their upset victory against tournament favourites Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals in Rustenburg.
Sunday Mba won it for the Super Eagles with 12 minutes to play after Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote equalised for the Ivoirians following Emmanuel Emenike’s opener.
Keshi is now eyeing the final in Soccer City on February 10 but knows his side must keep improving to get there.
“I want to thank God for this wonderful victory, and sincerely thank my players for everything they did. I just hope we can keep going to the final,” the former Togo and Mali coach said.
“Ivory Coast are the top team on the continent with lots of quality, so we tried to speed up and try to catch out players like Drogba and Yaya Toure.
“I’m glad my team is progressing in every game, there is great discipline in the team and I just hope we keep going that way.”
Keshi, a former Nigerian international himself lauded his side’s spirit and paid special tribute to match winner Mba – one of the squad’s five Nigerian-based players.
“The boys showed character. When I played for Nigeria I had to fight, fight, fight and they did that here,” he added.
“When the Ivoirians levelled we tried to defend and work out our tactics, and we scored again. Sunday came up with a beautiful, beautiful goal.”
For pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast it is back to the drawing board, after yet another heart-breaking Africa Cup of Nations defeat.
This was the last time we are likely to see former Chelsea star Didier Drogba and former Tottenham midfielder Didier Zokora playing in the tournament.
And the Elephants coach Sabri Lamouchi expressed sadness afterwards that he was unable to deliver a title for these veteran players.
“I put forward the team I judged to be the best to pose problems to a good Nigeria side,” said Lamouchi, who took over after last year’s final defeat to Zambia.
“Of course our aim was to win the title, and for certain players this could be their last chance so, yes, there is disappointment in the dressing room.
“It’s a great sadness for me as the players were working with one objective but it proved not to be enough.”
Nigeria now move on to face Mali, who eliminated tournament hosts South Africa, in the semi-finals in Durban on Wednesday.