Vogts holds nerve as Nigeria face embarrassing early exit

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Nigeria will have their backs to the wall when they face Mali in their African Nations Cup Group B game in Sekondi today.

The Super Eagles, having lost their opener against Ivory Coast 1-0, will be eliminated if they lose and the Ivorians beat Benin in the day's first game at the Essipon stadium. However, the Nigeria coach, Berti Vogts, is not too worried.

"My players have a good team spirit and I know they'll give everything they have to go through," said Vogts, who steered Germany to the European Championship title in 1996.

The former Scotland manager believes that Nigeria were beaten by the "best side in Africa" and that the best is yet to come from his team. But Mali, who have a very strong midfield with Seydou Keita and Mahamadou Diarra, will be a tough nut to crack.

The Eagles laboured to a 1-0 victory over Benin on Monday but Keita believes his team have what it takes to go far in the competition. "There is a lot of solidarity within the team and, in the Nations Cup, solidarity is a key element," he said.

The Mali players will also be supported by the inhabitants of Yirimadio, a Bamako neighbourhood where giant screens have been installed so the people there can watch the game. Mody Sereme, a 30-year-old student who lives in Bamako, said: "Many people don't have electricity in this neighbourhood. Having big screens in the streets is the only way for them to support their team."

There will be several thousand Ivorians supporting the Elephants when they face Benin, who are making only their second appearance in the Nations Cup finals.

The Squirrels have lost their four games in the competition but their strong defence could prove hard to break. "It's not going to be an easy game," said the Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba. "We saw that Mali needed a penalty to score, so we know it's going to be difficult."

The Benin midfielder Mouri Ogunbiyi has rejoined his team-mates at their training camp in Takoradi after apologising for his bad behaviour on Wednesday. "I apologise to my team mates, the sports minister and the coach," Ogunbiyi said in a statement.

The Squirrels' German coach, Reinhard Fabisch, said on Monday that Ogunbiyi had "lacked respect towards his team mates and to the fans" and that he was no longer wanted.

Today at the Nations Cup

GROUP B Ivory Coast v Benin, 17.00, Sekondi. Live on Eurosport and BBC i.

Nigeria v Mali, 19.30, Sekondi. Live on Eurosport and BBC i.

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