Once again, the Ivory Coast have failed to live up to expectations in the Africa Cup of Nations. They didn't rise to the occasion on either end of the pitch, as Nigeria earned a well-deserved win and semifinal place.
The greatest generation of Ivory Coast players entered the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations as the clear favorites to take the title, for what feels like the fifth straight tournament. They were more clearly the favorites in this tournament than any of their other previous failures, and had no business losing to Nigeria on Sunday afternoon, but the Eagles brought their best and scored two brilliant goals in a 2-1 victory.
Ivory Coast failed to score from open play, lacking the creativity to get by the Nigerian defense. While he played well, Didier Drogba obviously lacked the pure physical ability to will his way past athletic opponents and create goal-scoring chances out of absolutely nothing. A rather inexperienced and unheralded Super Eagles defense, though they fell asleep on one set piece, did a brilliant job of keeping the Ivory Coast from getting shots away.
Emmanuel Emenike netted the opening goal for the winners with a powerful strike, though he was aided by some horrendous goalkeeping. Picking up a pass from John Obi Mikel in the 43rd minute, he unleashed a thunderbolt at goal, though it was right at Boubacar Barry's hands. Inexplicably, the Ivory Coast goalkeeper didn't move and let the ball sail by him when he should have punched it away easily.
Cheik Tiote was the unlikely scorer of Ivory Coast's 50th minute equalizer. Didier Drogba provided the assist with a brilliant lofted free kick to the back post, which found the unmarked Newcastle midfielder. He directed an accurate header at the goal, and Victor Enyeama never had much of a chance to make a save.
Extra time looked to be on the cards as neither team looked too worried about getting an equalizer until Sunday Mba stunned the crowd with a brilliant counter-attacking goal. At the end of a stellar individual run, he unleashed a thunderbolt of a strike that swerved around Barry's hand, into the top of the net, putting Nigeria ahead.
Stephen Keshi made defensive substitutions in the closing minutes, and they worked brilliantly. The Elephants never really looked like scoring, as the Super Eagles held on for an astonishing victory and semifinal berth.