Sports - West Africa - Ghana - Nigeria - Football - Sport competitions
CAN 2008: Nigerians euphoric about Sekondi ’miracle’
from tears to joy
Nigerian football fans quickly moved from anger and disappointment to a pleasant surprise and happiness, after the national team’s qualification for the quarter-finals of the current Nations Cup in Ghana, following a 2-0 win over Benin in Sekondi and Cote d’Ivoire’s 3-0 thrashing of Mali in Accra, both on Tuesday.

Nigerian football fans quickly moved from anger and disappointment to a pleasant surprise and happiness, after the national team’s qualification for the quarter-finals of the current Nations Cup in Ghana, following a 2-0 win over Benin in Sekondi and Cote d’Ivoire’s 3-0 thrashing of Mali in Accra, both on Tuesday.

Many here are calling it a miracle, that the Super Eagles team which failed to score a single goal in two previous matches not only found the net against the Squirrels of Benin, but was helped by Cote d’Ivoire, which dispelled all speculations of a francophone gang-up by fielding a full team to record an emphatic victory over Mali.

Nigeria finished second in group B with four points, behind Cote d’Ivoire with the maximum 9, while Mali - which needed a draw against the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire to qualify - and Benin were eliminated in the group stage.

Nigeria will meet Ghana, while Cote d’Ivoire will play Guinea in the quarters finals on Sunday.

The headline of the local football football website ’kickoffnigeria’ said it all: ’’Eagles bounce back from the dead’’

Many fans here, disappointed at the Super Eagles 1-0 loss to Cote d’Ivoire in their first group match and a barren draw against Mali, had written off the team, and were indeed planning how to meet the players and officials at the airport to pelt them with rotten tomatoes for their dismal performance.

The fact that the Nigerians needed a clear victory against Benin was not the problem, but that Cote d’Ivoire must also beat Mali.

Since Cote d’Ivoire and Mali are French speaking, conspiracy theorists quickly spread the rumour that both teams had concluded plans to play an ’’accord match’’ to ensure the elimination of their Anglo-phone brothers from Nigeria.

Nigerian fans, players and officials resorted to prayers for God to touch the hearts of the Ivorians and strengthened their legs, so they could beat Mali, and it seems the prayers were answered with the 3-0 beating of Mali by the Ivorians.

With the fortunes of the Super Eagles now changed for the better, the much-relieved Nigerians are singing a different tune.

Newspaper headlines Wednesday reflected the general mood of the nation and the fact that Cote d’Ivoire helped to propel the Super Eagles to the last eight.

The Nation newspaper carried a front-page, banner headline that reads: ’’Eagles bounce back, set to battle Ghana in the quarter-final’’, complete with a quarter-page photograph of Mikel Obi tackling a Beninoise player.

’’Ghana 2008: Nigeria hits quarter-finals....Elephants nick it for Eagles’’ was the headline in the Punch newspaper, which also featured on its front page a quarter-page photograph of the Eagles celebrating after the match.

’’Eagles beat Benin 2-0, face Ghana on Sunday’’ (Guardian); ’’Nigeria fumble, wobble to quarter-finals (Daily Sun)’’; ’’Super Eagles squeeze into quarter-finals (Leadership) and ’’Cote d’Ivoire hands Eagles quarter-final ticket (Thisday) were some of the other headlines.

Thisday also carried a photograph with the caption ’’Mikel to the rescue’’, referring to the fact that the Chelsea player scored one of Nigeria’s two goals and helped set up the other, which was scored by Yakubu Aiyegbeni.

The nightly television news on Tuesday also gave prominence to Nigeria’s victory, while radio stations took calls from several fans who phoned in to to express their joy that Nigeria was not disgraced.

Failure to qualify from the group stage would have meant the first such experience for the Nigerians since 1982 in Libya, when Nigeria failed to go past the group stage.

Attention has now turned to the quarter-final match against host Ghana in Accra on Sunday, which promises to relive the age-old football rivalry between the two friendly nations.

The Eagles’ handlers are talking tough, saying the they would dim Ghana’s star - in a play on the team’s name (Black Stars) - while the Ghanaians expect to ride on their rising profile and an expected huge home support to clip the wings of the Eagles.

Photo: Akin Akinro, Fola Ashade & Richard Ajala


 Dossier : CAN 2008
Ghana

dossier : CAN 2008

 

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