Olympic Preview: Nigeria - Côte d'Ivoire

What: 2008 Olympic Games quarter-final
Who: Nigeria (1st, Group B, 9/9pts) vs Ivory Coast (2nd, Group A, 6/9pts)
When: Saturday 16 August 21:00 China Standard Time
Where: Qinhuangdao Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, Qinhuangdao
Referee: Masoud Moradi (Iran)

An all-African tie guarantees the presence of at least one of the continental contenders in the semi-finals. Nigeria, having won the tournament in 1994, have more pedigree, but nonetheless the Ivory Coast will seek to build on their successes of the past four years...

Hard To Impress

Despite racing to the top of the 'Group of Death', Nigeria's squad have yet to truly impress manager Samson Siasia.

The outspoken boss proclaimed after Wednesday's win over the USA that too many of his European exports were self-centred, and that goalkeeper Ambruse Vanzekin had once again sold the jerseys.

Those are harsh words from the man who has himself played more than a few games in the famous green shirt, and whether or not they have the desired effect of motivation, or instead breed resentment, remains to be seen.

Still, he's softened his mood a bit now. Speaking to This Day newspaper on Friday, he smiled, "It's my birthday today (Thursday) but I'm not looking forward to a better present from the boys than victory over the Ivoriens on Saturday.

"We had serious talks over some issues and I gave the guys a piece of my mind. We have to know what we’re here for and approach our games with business-like attitude.

"I am not blaming anyone but we have taken things a bit too easy in the previous games and I needed to let them know that we have got to the crunch and it gets much tougher from here."

Coasting To Success

Côte d'Ivoire, meanwhile, have lived up to their free-scoring nature so far. Sadly they have done so at both ends of the pitch.

In just one game - against Australia - have the Africans kept a clean sheet, with Serbia putting two past them in a stunning 4-2 win, while Argentina opened their tournament with a 2-0 victory.

Boss Gérard Gili will be pleased with how things are going up front, but less so at the back. Goalkeeper Vincent Angban has won a few plaudits so far, but both he and his back line need to do more.

In any case with this side the attack has almost always been the dominant force. Salomon Kalou is one of the men that makes that possible, and he told, ""It's good that there are three African teams in the quarter-finals, it means that we're all strong enough to compete for major honours.

"Nigeria already know how it feels to be crowned champions, but our side is capable of reaching the final. I've got a lot of faith in our team."

Players to watch: The aforementioned Salomon Kalou knows some of the Nigerian squad already from his time in English, and he may cause a bit of lost sleep among the Super Eages' back-line. Nigeria have threats of their own: Victor Obinna has scored twice so far, while Chibuzor Okonkwo, a powerful full-back, is fast winning admirers worldwide.

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Olympic Preview: Nigeria - Côte d'Ivoire Reviewed by admin Ucop on 5:00 PM Rating: 5

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