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Whittaker: Deserved win at Man City

Stoke 22 hours ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 24, 2008

Make or break for Nigeria against Mali

ELMINA, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Nigeria will have their backs to the wall when they face Mali in their African Nations Cup Group B game in Sekondi on Friday.

The Super Eagles, having lost their opener against Ivory Coast 1-0, will be eliminated if they lose and the Ivorians beat Benin in the day's first game at the Essipon stadium.

However, Nigeria coach Berti Vogts is not too worried.

'My players have a good team spirit and I know they'll give everything they have to go through,' said Vogts, who steered Germany to the European Championship title in 1996.

The German believes that Nigeria were beaten by the 'best side in Africa' and that the best is yet to come from his team.

But Mali, who have arguably one of the strongest midfields on the continent with Seydou Keita and Mahamadou Diarra, will be a tough nut to crack.

The Eagles laboured to a 1-0 victory over Benin on Monday but captain Keita believes his team have what it takes to go far in the competition.

'There is a lot of solidarity within the team and in the Nations Cup, solidarity is a key element,' he said.

The Mali players will also be supported by the inhabitants of Yirimadio, a Bamoko neighbourhood where giant screens have been installed so the people there can watch the game.

Mody Sereme, a 30-year-old student who lives in Bamako, told Reuters: 'Many people don't have electricity in this neighbourhood. Having big screens in the streets is the only way for them to support their team.'

There will be several thousand Ivorians supporting the Elephants when they face Benin, who are making only their second appearance in the Nations Cup finals.

The Squirrels have lost their four games in the competition but their strong defence could prove hard to break.

'It's not going to be an easy game,' said Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba. 'We saw that Mali needed a penalty to score, so we know it's going to be difficult.'