The rivalry between West African countries Benin Republic and Nigeria has considerably increased the stock for Thursday’s 2017 WAFU Cup semi-final encounter at the Cape Coast Stadium.
The Squirrels of Benin last month were knocked out of the 2018 CHAN tournament by the Super Eagles after a 2-0 win in the second leg fixture in Kano to cancelled out the Squirrels first leg 1-0 win in Cotonou.
Nigeria and Benin Republic have clashed 18 times with Super Eagles beating the Squirrels 11 times. Benin Republic have managed just two wins over Nigeria with five drawn matches. Nigeria have scored 42 goals, while Benin managed 10 goals against Nigeria.
Benin Republic finished as winners of Group B with six points, they will battle the Super Eagles of Nigeria who finished second in Group A with five points this evening at the Cape Coast Stadium for a place in the final of this year’s competition.
Super Eagles B Team captain Ikechukwu Ezenwa has said determination and focus took Nigeria far in the tournament.
“The determination and focus in the team has push us to this level, we had to survive some difficult hurdle. We are happy to be counted among the best four teams in the West Africa,” Ezenwa told Naijafootballplus.com in Takoradi.
“We know the importance of today’s game, a lot of rivalry between both teams and we understand the massive challenge ahead of us. We have beaten them before and I am expecting them to come all out and give us a big fight in the game.
“The concentration part of the team is high and we will continue to work hard. We have to get the job done against Benin and the victory won’t come easy. We have to fight and contest everything throw at us in the game.”
NPFL top scorer and Lobi Stars forward Tony Okpotu is excited to to have broken Nigeria’s goal drought against Ghana, he also echoed Ezenwa’s feeling ahead of today’s game.
“I felt it was the normal moment in football for a striker, goal drought is part of the life of every striker. I have never doubts my quality and I knew I was going to score in the tournament. I am excited I did it in the biggest game of the group stages. Everyone knows me for scoring, I was able to contain the moment and pressure, I am happy the jinx was broken which has taken away the pressure.
“We have been playing very well right from the knockout round against Sierra Leone but we were not lucky enough against Mali and Guinea. The CHAN qualifiers is much different from the WAFU Cup, they have got more experience players. We have to battle them with high level of discipline, we are hoping to make Nigerians happy today,” said Okpotu to Naijafootballplus.com.