Sun, Feb 03, 2008 - Page 22 News List

Nigeria relishing playing the role of party wreckers

AFP , ACCRA

Ghana's Haminu Draman warms up during a training session in Accra on Friday ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final match against Nigeria.

PHOTO: AFP

Nigeria are relishing the chance to play the role of party wreckers when they tackle Ghana in today's Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final.

This last-eight clash between the Super Eagles and hosts the Black Stars is the latest chapter in a lengthy rivalry between the west African neighbors and it promises to be a compelling one.

"It's going to be Black Sunday for the Stars," predicted Nigeria's media officer Peterside Idah.

The game at the Ohene Djan Stadium features a batch of well known players from the English Premier League, with Ghana's Michael Essien coming up against his fellow Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel.

There is also a strong Portsmouth contingent with the home side's Sulley Muntari taken on by Nigeria duo Nwankwo Kanu and John Utaka.

"Both sides may have them but I've got the best Chelsea and Portsmouth players," boasted Ghana coach Claude Le Roy.

Nigeria have been hit by a newfound wave of optimism after leaving behind their struggling early opening round form to seal their place in the quarter-finals with a convincing 2-0 win over Benin on Tuesday.

That left Berti Vogts' Super Eagles as Group B runners-up.

Ghana ended Group A as leaders after three straight wins, saving the best for their final win over Morocco, with Essien scoring and setting up Muntari.

"All Nigerian sides are strong, but I'm confident, I'm always confident in life," said Le Roy, who guided Cameroon to the 1988 title. "There's great team spirit in my side and I believe they have the quality to go all the way."

Ghana's only slight injury worry concerns striker Asamoah Gyan, who is nursing a slight groin strain forcing him to train apart from the team on Thursday and Friday.

"I haven't trained with the team for two days now but I think I'll be fit to play on Sunday," said the 22-year-old Udinese forward.

Junior Agogo, back to form after feeling unwell on Thursday, predicts sparks will fly today.

"There's going to be a lot of passion, a lot of hard tackling, but we're ready, the boys are buzzing to get the game started," said the in-form Nottingham Forest front man.

Laryea Kingston returns after sitting out the Morocco game with a one match suspension.

This is the 60th time the two countries have met and it's hard to avoid the growing sense of optimism in the Nigeria camp that this meeting will go their way.

But while Ghana are at full strength, Vogts is missing influential winger Peter Osaze Odemwingie because of suspension.

On the plus side Kanu, a veteran of five Cup of Nations, is back in the picture after recovering from a knock he picked up in the defeat by Ivory Coast.

"We still can't believe that we have qualified for the quarter-finals because we had all given up until the unexpected happened last Tuesday," Kanu said.

Nigeria assistant coach Austin Eguavoen opted for a poetic summary of the game.

"We have the game plan that will ensure that we prick the eyes of the Stars to gather enough clouds to cover their glitter," he said.

Whichever side prevails today will have as their reward a semi-final date with the winner of the quarter-final between Tunisia and Cameroon, scheduled to take place tomorrow.

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