'No room for error' as Ivory Coast faces Nigeria
RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) — Ivory Coast knows it will need to be near perfect to get past Nigeria in the quarterfinals of the African Cup on Sunday.
Players are confident that this time the Elephants have what it takes to finally break through with their first title in more than 20 years, but coach Sabri Lamouchi is warning there will be "no room for error" against two-time champion Nigeria.
Ivory Coast made it to the final last year but lost to Zambia, and this might be the last chance for glory for a talented generation of players led by Didier Drogba.
Nigeria just barely advanced from the group stage but wants to keep its momentum to try to win its first title since 1994.
Ivory Coast arrived as the main tournament favorite but didn't impress in the group stage. It beat Togo with a last-minute winner after a lackluster performance, then improved to defeat Tunisia 3-0 and struggled again against already eliminated Algeria, needing two late goals to earn a 2-2 draw in its final Group D match.
"We have no room for error especially as we have in front of us a good team in Nigeria and the smallest error can cost dearly," Lamouchi said through a translator. "As we have already said, if we win we continue and if this is not the case we return home."
The coach wants his players to try to forget the struggles of the first round and focus on finding a way to beat Nigeria.
"Effectively it is a new competition where this match is essential to continue the adventure," Lamouchi said.
The match in Rustenburg is one of the most anticipated quarterfinals, putting head-to-head some of the tournament's biggest names. In addition to Drogba, Ivory Coast has Arsenal forward Gervinho and Manchester City players Kolo Toure and Yaya Toure. Nigeria is led by Chelsea players John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses.
"I think it's going to be a great quarterfinal," Mikel said. "We just have to concentrate on what we do and keep playing the way we're playing. It's going to be a very tough game. Everyone knows how good they are, but we just have to keep doing what we do, and hopefully we'll win the game."
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