A goal from Sunday Mba helped Nigeria shock pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast and set up an Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against Mali on Wednesday.
Mba's deflected shot 12 minutes from time was enough to win the match after Newcastle United's Cheick Tiote had equalised Emmanuel Emenike's opening goal. At the age of 34, the defeat is likely to spell the end of Didier Drogba's hopes of ever lifting the trophy and also means several Premier League-based players including Manchester City's Yaya Touré and Gervinho of Arsenal will be back in action for their clubs a week earlier than had been anticipated.
"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 Touré," said the Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi.
"The boys showed character. When the Ivorians levelled we tried to defend and work out our tactics, and we scored again. Sunday came up with a beautiful, beautiful goal."
One of only six members of the Super Eagles' squad that includes Chelsea pair John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses to be based in the Nigerian Premier League, Mba's goal meant it is 21 years since Ivory Coast's solitary triumph back in 1992. The future of coach Sabri Lamouchi will now come under question, with several high-profile players besides Drogba also coming to the end of their international careers.
"Of course our aim was to win the title and for certain players this could be their last chance so, yes, there is disappointment," said Lamouchi. "It's a great sadness for me as the players were working with one objective – to win this Nations Cup – but it proved not to be enough."
In the day's other quarter-final, Togo were eliminated after an extra-time goal from Jonathan Pitroipa sent Burkina Faso through to only their second-ever semi-final. After the injury sustained by Jermain Defoe, the defeat will have come as a relief to the Tottenham Hotspur manager, Andre Villas-Boas, who will now have striker Emmanuel Adebayor back in his squad for next weekend's meeting with Newcastle United. Burkina Faso will now face Ghana in the semi-finals in Nelspruit on Wednesday.Reuse content