Mikel strikes to propel Nigeria into last eight

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The Independent Football

Chelsea's John Obi Mikel scored and set up another as Nigeria beat Benin 2-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the African Nations Cup yesterday.

The Super Eagles will meet hosts Ghana for a last four spot on Sunday while Group B winners Ivory Coast, who beat Mali 3-0 in Accra, will take on Guinea. Mali, who needed a draw to progress, are eliminated on goal difference.

"We asked for something of a miracle and it happened," said Peter Odemwingie, who was outstanding for Nigeria but is now suspended for Sunday's match. "We showed great mental strength. Rule us out at your own risk."

Didier Drogba, Marc Zoro and Boubacar Sanogo scored the goals for Ivory Coast, who cemented their standing as competition favourites. "Ivory Coast and Ghana are among the favorites," said Ivory Coast coach Gerrard Gili. "But there are still tough games to play in the quarter-finals and semi-finals."

Nigeria improved after a lacklustre first half at the Essipon stadium and made the breakthrough on 52 minutes when Mikel headed in Odemwingie's cross after Benin 'keeper Yoann Djidonou had failed to clear a Taye Taiwo free kick. The Chelsea midfielder also set up Yakubu to seal the win four minutes from time. Berti Vogts's side had failed to score in their first two matches, losing 1-0 to the Ivorians and drawing 0-0 with Mali.

For Ivory Coast, Drogba scored in the ninth minute from the Elephants' first attack, running onto a through ball from Barcelona midfielder Yaya Touré. Looking ahead to the quarter-finals, Drogba said: "I hope we can keep it simple, not speak too much and do it on the pitch."