In a quest for their first win at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria’s Super Eagles brace for a showdown with hosts Cote d’Ivoire on Thursday, January 18.
A clash between Nigeria and Ivory Coast is a common feature at the AFCON, rich with history and a dash of drama.
Here Soccernet.ng recalls seven epic battles between two of the most successful teams at the continental championships.
1980 AFCON: Nigeria 0-0 Cote d’Ivoire
In 1980, Nigeria faced the Ivorians in a grudge match, with the Green Eagles harbouring the lingering pain of their elimination in the qualifying series for the 1968 AFCON.
The encounter ended in a tense goalless draw, but Nigeria’s subsequent victories over Egypt and Tanzania provided a satisfying redemption, allowing them to top Group A.
Meanwhile, Cote d’Ivoire bowed out with only two points from three games.
The clash against Cote d’Ivoire was the only game Nigeria failed to win as the Eagles dominated Morocco in the semifinals and overcame Algeria in the final to win the country’s first-ever AFCON trophy.
1990 AFCON: Nigeria 1-0 Cote d’Ivoire
A decade later, at Algiers ’90, Nigeria met with Cote d’Ivoire again in the group stage.
The Eagles had lost their first match to hosts Algeria, but a 1-0 victory over Egypt helped the team regain confidence before facing the Ivorians on matchday three.
The Elephants also needed a win to qualify for the next round, having defeated Egypt and lost to Algeria.
The clash of the titans delivered on its promise to be a well-fought-out battle, but Nigeria came out on top thanks to an early strike from an exciting young Rashidi Yekini.
The Eagles went all the way to the final before losing again to hosts Algeria.
1994 AFCON: Nigeria 2-2 Cote d’Ivoire (4-2 on penalties)
Nigeria again faced off against Cote d’Ivoire in the semifinals of the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia — a clash etched in football history for its sheer intensity and dramatic twists.
Nigeria, undefeated in three previous games, collided with the Elephants, who had showcased their dominance by trouncing Sierra Leone 4-0 and narrowly falling to Zambia.
The Elephants boasted an arsenal featuring the formidable goalkeeper Alain Gouamene, while the attacking trio of Joel Tiehi, Abdoulaye Traore, and Michel Bassole struck fear into defenders.
On the other side, Nigeria paraded battle-ready warriors — defensive stalwart Stephen Keshi, midfield maestro Jay Jay Okocha, and the relentless Daniel Amokachi in the attack.
What unfolded at the Stade El Menzah in Tunis was breathtaking.
The first half – marked by four goals – became an exhilarating spectacle, etching its mark as one of the most captivating in AFCON history.
Ivory Coast drew first blood through a header from the lethal Bassole, igniting the crowd.
Yet, Nigeria’s resilience came to the fore when Benedict Iroha combined with Rashidi Yekini to level the scores midway through the first half.
Bassole struck again, reclaiming the lead for the Elephants, only for Rashidi Yekini to draw parity from close range just before the interval.
Nigeria had enough chances after the break to win the tie but Cote d’Ivoire held on stubbornly even into extra time.
In the ensuing penalty drama, emotions ran high as Samson Siasia and Bassole faltered.
However, Nigeria’s Iroha, Finidi, Amokachi, and Yekini held their nerve, converting their kicks flawlessly.
The result: a pulsating 4-2 victory for Nigeria, etching this semifinal clash as one of the most unforgettable moments in AFCON history.
2006 AFCON: Nigeria 0-1 Cote d’Ivoire
The Ivorians, inspired by the dynamic duo of Drogba and Toure, finally clinched their first AFCON victory over Nigeria in 2006.
The semifinal clash in Alexandria’s Harras El-Hedoud Stadium unfolded with suspense, concluding in a slim 1-0 victory for Cote d’Ivoire.
Despite this setback, Nigeria rallied to secure third place in the tournament.
2008 AFCON: Nigeria 0-1 Cote d’Ivoire
At the 2008 AFCON edition held in Ghana two years later, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire shared Group B with Mali and Benin.
While the Elephants soared with wins in all three group games, the Super Eagles managed a victory against Benin, a draw against Mali, and a defeat at the hands of the dominant Ivorians.
Despite the notable talents of John Obi Mikel and Yakubu Aiyegbeni in the Nigerian squad, the Eagles faced a formidable challenge against a star-studded Ivorian lineup featuring the likes of Drogba, Salomon Kalou, and Kader Keïta in attack, with midfield maestro Yaya Toure orchestrating the game.
The decisive moment came in the 66th minute when Kalou’s clinical finish secured a 1-0 victory for Cote d’Ivoire, claiming all three points at stake.
Nigeria made it past the group stage, but the Super Eagles’ journey in the tournament ended in the quarterfinals against host nation Ghana.
Similarly, Cote d’Ivoire tasted defeat in the bronze medal match against the Black Stars.
2013 AFCON: Nigeria 2-1 Cote d’Ivoire
Remarkably, every time Nigeria has triumphed over Cote d’Ivoire in any AFCON stage, it has paved the way for the Eagles to soar into the tournament final.
South Africa 2013 was no exception to this intriguing pattern.
As the quarterfinal clash unfolded, the Ivorians, with Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure still in their ranks, were the heavy favourites to sweep aside a Super Eagles team managed by former international Stephen Keshi.
Both teams had navigated divergent paths to reach this pivotal stage.
Cote d’Ivoire smashed a tournament-high seven goals in the group stage to claim the top spot in Group D.
In contrast, Nigeria secured a runners-up position in Group C, relying on two late Victor Moses penalties to secure the spot behind Burkina Faso.
The Super Eagles adopted a tactical approach, maintaining defensive solidity and capitalising on counter-attacks.
The deadlock was broken just moments before halftime by a spectacular long-range free-kick from Emmanuel Emenike.
Despite Cheick Ismaël Tioté heading home the Ivorians’ equalizer five minutes into the second half, Sunday Mba’s exceptional winner in the 78th minute sent 200 million compatriots into wild jubilations.
Buoyed by this triumph, the Super Eagles carried the same momentum into the semifinals, where they dominated Mali with a resounding 4-1 victory.
This emphatic win paved the way for Nigeria to secure a spot in the final, where they clinched the trophy with a 1-0 triumph over Burkina Faso.