Yobo tells Nigeria to raise game or go out

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The Independent Football

Nigeria defender Joseph Yobo is counting on his team-mates to produce a winning performance when they face Benin in a crucial Africa Cup of Nations encounter in Benguela today.

The Super Eagles are still smarting after they were beaten 3-1 by defending champions Egypt earlier this week and anything less than a win would put them on the brink of an early exit.

The defeat on Tuesday was made harder to bear considering they took the lead in the game, but the captain wants to forget the past and look to the future. "This team feel bad about what has happened and we know it is time to step up our game to avoid an early elimination from this championship," he said.

"No one is happy about the result, and we are looking forward to giving our all in the next games." The Everton centre-half has promised to remain strong in the days ahead, adding: "We have a match against Benin and then we go to Lubango on Wednesday to play Mozambique. Now we have our backs to the wall and we know we must perform. We will lift our game and do Nigeria proud."

Striker Peter Odemwingie, who missed the opening game through injury, is fit again and certain to feature, but Obafemi Martins is unavailable.

Benin, who have two Nigeria-born players in their ranks in Razak Omotoyossi and Muri Ogunbiyi, will be equally desperate to get something out of the game if they are to keep their chances of progress alive.

They threw away a two-goal lead in their opening game against Mozambique to draw 2-2 and coach Michel Dussuyer knows they now have plenty to do to. "I am disappointed with the way we played, especially after the start," he said. "I have spoken to the players and they know what we have to do against Nigeria."

Egypt coach Hassan Shehata is refusing to look too far into the future ahead of their second group game against Mozambique today. Shehata's side, who are pursuing a third straight title in Angola, can all but assure themselves a place in the quarter-finals with a win in Benguela following their impressive win over Nigeria.

Not all has been plain sailing in the build-up to the game, with reports from the north Africans' camp suggesting Hosni Abd-Rabou, Hossam Ghaly and Wael Gomaa are struggling with a virus. Nonetheless, Shehata is fully focused on the job on hand. "We did well in the opening game against Nigeria, but we must continue the good work when we play Mozambique," he said.

Apart from the virus, there are no serious injury worries for Egypt. Mozambique, meanwhile, will be buoyed by their fightback from 2-0 down to draw with Benin in their opener. It was a memorable point for coach Mart Nooij and one that gives his side a fair chance of qualifying.

The striker Manuel Bucuane admitted it was not the preferred result, but still feels optimistic ahead of the game with Egypt. He said: "We made some silly mistakes and conceded two goals, but we came back strongly. It was a game we targeted all three points, but we managed a draw which is not bad."

Match Guide: Fixtures

*Nigeria v Benin

Group C, 4pm (Eurosport)

Nigeria face a must-win game following their surprising opening defeat against Egypt. The Super Eagles began Tuesday's match well before going down 3-1 and should be confident of better against an unfancied Benin side. The Squirrels threw away a two-goal lead against Mozambique and could pay dearly for that today.

*Egypt v Mozambique

Group C, 6.30pm (Eurosport)

Defending champions Egypt can guarantee a place in the quarter finals with a win in Benguela tonight, although they may have to do without Hosni Abd-Rabou, Hossam Ghaly and Wael Gomaa, who are all struggling with a virus. Opponents Mozambique came from behind in their opener to earn a draw against Benin but should prove easy pickings for Egypt.