Nigeria have knocked favorites Ivory Coast out of the Africa Cup of Nations. With a 2-1 win, the Super Eagles move into the semifinal for the sixth time in the last eight tournaments.
It was an impressive performance from Nigeria Sunday in front of 20,000 fans at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa holding their own against the top-ranked team on the continent.
Emmanuel Emenike opened the scoring in the two minutes before halftime with a powerful free kick to put Nigeria 1-0 up. His shot from 25 yards out flew past the Ivorian wall and beyond goalkeeper Boubacar Barry, who could only stand and watch.
Cheik Tiote equalized for Ivory Coast shortly after the second half began when he was left unmarked for a header at the back post, but it was Sunday Mba's goal in the 78th minute that proved to be the winner.
Mba weaved through the Elephant's defense before firing from outside the area, sending two-time champions Nigeria to the semifinal.
"I want to thank God for this wonderful victory, and sincerely thank my players for everything they did today. I hope we can keep going to the final," said Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi.
"The boys showed character. When I played for Nigeria I had to fight, fight, fight and they did that today."
Nigeria are trying to win their first title since 1994, when they had a team that dominated African football for most of the decade. They last made the final in 2000, losing to Cameroon.
The loss is another bitter disappointment for Ivory Coast and their captain, 34-year-old Didier Drogba. The legendary striker will end his Cup of Nations career without the title he and his teammates craved.
Nigeria will play Mali in the semifinal in Durban on Wednesday.
In the second quarterfinal of the evening, Burkina Faso beat Togo 1-0 in extra time at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit with a 105th minute header from Jonathan Pitroipa. It is the first time the country has reached the semifinals since 1998.
Burkina Faso will play Ghana in the second semifinal also on Wednesday.
dr/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)