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Nigeria look to fierce rivals for big favour

29 January 2008 10:29

SEKONDI, Ghana (AFP) - Nigeria's Super Eagles will hope fierce rivals Ivory Coast beat Mali while they do the business against Benin to get them back into the reckoning at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.

Nigeria are third in the standings in Group B with a point from two matches after the scoreless draw with Mali and require group leaders Ivory Coast to beat Mali Tuesday while they beat Benin by more than a goal so as to qualify for the quarter-final.

"We know that Mali need only a draw to make it to the next round of the tournament but we equally expect that despite the absence of their top players, Ivory Coast will be professional enough and beat Mali for us," said Nigeria defender Rabiu Afolabi, who stars for Sochaux.

"At the same time, we have to go out there and beat Benin well."

Injury-hit Ifeanyi Emeghara and Dickson Etuhu have resumed training with the rest of the squad, but skipper Nwankwo Kanu again skipped training due to an ankle problem he received in the clash against Ivory Coast.

The draw with Mali dented Nigeria's Nations Cup dream and sparked off speculations about the future of German coach Berti Vogts.

Spokesman for the Nigeria Football Association (NFA), Ademola Olajire, will later dismiss talks of Vogts being shown the door.

"No one has contemplated sacking Vogts. We have to see through this tournament before we think of any other thing," insisted Olajire.

An official though hinted that there may now be a need to review Vogts contract which allows him to spend more time in Europe as it has become necessary for the country to build a second team made up of players from the domestic league.

Four years ago in Tunisia, the Eagles needed to beat the Squirrels from Benin 2-1 to guarantee their place in the knockout stage of the tournament in which they got as far as the semi-finals.

Benin are featuring in their second Nations Cup finals and bottom of Group B but insist they will want to salvage some national pride by getting a result against their next-door neigbours.

"We know we are already out of the competition but a few of us in the team particularly those of us with Nigerian parents have a point or two to prove," said Benin striker Razak Omotoyossi, one of three players with Nigerian origins.

The hard running Helsingborgs forward scored his team's only goal in the 4-1 spanking by the Ivory Coast.

The former youth international scored 14 goals in the Swedish league last season and has reportedly interested several English Premier League clubs including Middlesbrough and Portsmouth.

Another Nigerian-born player, Muri Ogunbiyi, is also expected to feature after he came close to being thrown out of the squad for leaving camp without permission and it needed the intervention of some top officials before he was pardoned.

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