LIKE a commander leading his troop to the battle front, Super Eagles’ captain, Joseph Yobo, has conditioned the mind of his teammates for today’s Super Sunday clash against the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire in South Africa’s city of Rustenburg.
With some players in the Ivorian team boasting that they will eat the Super Eagles like ‘super fried chicken’ in today’s quarter finals match, Yobo says it would be a ‘no retreat, no surrender confrontation.’
The Royal Bafokeng Stadium is the battleground and the Ivorians are favoured to carry the day going by the number of experienced ‘soldiers’ they are parading in this year’s African Nations Cup.
From the ‘General’ Didier Tebily Yves Drogba, to his ‘second-in-command’ like the Toure brothers, (Yaya and Kolo), Kone Arouna, Didier Zokora, Solomaon Kalou, Bony Wilfried and boastful Emmanuel Eboue, the Ivoirians are the fans’ favourites to win this battle.
The Super Eagles is dominated mainly by unknown players, with 16 of them featuring in the Nations Cup for the first time. Their ‘inexperienced’ in the Nations Cup notwithstanding, the Nigerian team captain is confident that the Eagles will carry the day.
Yobo, who said he was ready to lead the front in today’s encounter, if selected by the coaches, has made it clear to the younger players like Elderson Echiejile, Azubuike Egwueke, Ahmed Musa, Godfrey Oboabona, Sunday Mba, Kenneth Omeruo, Emmanuel Emenike and Onazi Ogenyi not to be scared of ‘big’ names in the Elephants’ squad.
“The African Nations Cup is a big occasion where players want to make names for themselves. I found myself in the same shoes several years ago when I featured in the championship for the first time. But I want them to know that as young players, you don’t get scared of big names in a competition like this, he said.
“Playing against a team, which has big names, lead to so many things in one’s career. It is an opportunity to move to bigger clubs. That is if you do not get scared of the big names being paraded by the opponent. If you are the type of player that is scared of playing against big names, you may end up ruining your career.”
He continued: “What I am saying in effect if that our young players stand a better chance of winning this game if they believe in themselves. There is no need to panic because of the presence of players like of Drogba and Yaya Toure.
“This is my sixth Nations Cup and my prayer is to lift the trophy. I have played with a squad that was very strong in the past and we didn’t win but I expect something great this time around. The Elephants defeated us in 2006 and 2008 in a very close contest; it won’t be the same now because we have a squad that is more committed and I am sure we will match them,” Yobo assured.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has appointed Algerian Referee, Haimoudi Djamel, to be at the centre for today’s match. Achik Redouane of Morroco, Dos Santos of Angola and Al Ahrach Bouchaib of Morocco will assist Djamel while the designated Match Commissioner is Anjorin Moucharafou of Benin Republic.
While Yobo is optimistic of triumphing over the Elephants in today’s encounter, Coach Stephen Keshi is not too sure. He said that in the event of Eagles losing to the Elephants, his boys would hold their heads high in defeat.
Speaking at a press conference in Rustenburg, Keshi said: “Everybody claims that Cote d’Ivoire are the best team in Africa. They have been together for long and Super Eagles are a young team that I am just putting together. This is not an excuse anyway. But if they beat us, we will walk with our heads held high.
“You said they are the best. Also, remember that the defending champions of this competition could not cross the preliminary stage. If Nigerians have decided that we are failures, they won’t be surprised to see us beaten.”
But Keshi was quick to add that the atmosphere in the Super Eagles camp was good and there were no distractions or injuries. “We are looking forward to Sunday (today). That will determine our faith. You people say we are under-dogs. It is well for us”.
Shortly after Ivoirians drew 2-2 in their last group game against Algeria, Galatasaray of Turkey defender, Emmanuel Eboue, boasted that his country would eat the Super Eagles like ‘super fried chicken’ in today’s quarter finals match. The former Arsenal player said that Eagles were no match to his side.
His first tweet read: “Congrats to Nigeria. Don’t celebrate too much cuz we are coming for you. We are going to eat you like fufu.”
Minutes later, Eboue tweeted again: “Sorry guys, point of correction. We are going to eat Nigeria like ‘Super Fried Chickens.”
To players and officials of the Super Eagles, engaging the Ivoirian defender in a war of words will amount to nothing. Rather, Keshi told his players to let their boots do the talking on the pitch.
“We will put Eboue and his teammates to shame at the end of 90 minutes on Sunday,” Keshi stated
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