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Abidjan
27/07/2013 15:00

Eagles qualify for Chan

Posted: 27 July 2013 Time: 19:39

Nigeria secured a first time passage to the African Nations Championship despite losing 2-0 to an excellent Côte d'Ivoire team.

Needing three clear goals to advance, and with a noisy, heaving crowd behind them, the Elephants were quick off the blocks, as Zougoula and Cheick Moukouro raided down their left channel.

It did not take them long too threaten. Zougoula evaded three Nigerian defenders with a slick turn, and sent the ball wide out to Moukouro.

His cross was near perfect, until it was dealt with by Godfrey Oboabona. That was just four minutes in.

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Two minutes later, they had the breakthrough. Azubuike Egwuekwe, under no pressure, sent a short back header to goalkeeper Chigozie Agbim.

The goalie was caught cold, in no man's land as he raced off his line to rescue the situation. Zougoula was quicker, toe-poked the ball underneath the keeper.

If the Robert Chambroux Stadium was noisy before, the goal turned it even more raucous.

Inspired by their early breakthrough, the Elephants pressed forward, contesting and winning the majority of the 50/50 balls as the Super Eagles laboured to get a foothold in the game.

Egwuekwe came inches close to making amends for his earlier error, but rose unmarked to head Gomo Onduku's cross over the bar.

Not long after, it was 2-0.

Solomon Kwambe cleared a short corner, but not far enough, and it fell to Zougoula with his back to goal.

Rabiu Ali, in his attempt to make a better clearance, took the forward with the ball. The referee pointed to the spot, Zougoula picked himself up and drilled past Agbim.

With elimination staring them in the face, the Super Eagles worked themselves back into the game, and Gomo Onduku tested the goalkeeper just before half-time.

If the first half clearly belonged to the Elephants, the second was edged by the Eagles.

As Sunday Mba's influence grew, so did the Nigerians' control of the game, although they did dodge a bullet early in the half when Zougoula escaped the attentions of Benjamin Francis and came face to face with Agbim. But the goalkeeper stood his ground, narrowed the angle and made a decisive save.

Substitute Alhaji Gero helped swing the attacking tide even further Nigeria's way when he came on for Onduku, and almost set up a chance for Mba with his first touch.

He came close in his own right when played clean through by Mba, but Mathias Kassi intervened just before Gero pulled the trigger.

Both sides found half chances but nothing clear cut. With time running out, Zougoula went down in the box under a challenge by Oboabona, but the referee waved his appeals away.

Nigeria held on and qualify 4-3 on aggregate to reach the finals for the first time.

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