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Nigeria fired up by 'pitiful' fans

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Sunday, February 03, 2013

RUSTENBURG, South Africa - Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has urged the tens of millions of fans back home to forget their sniping and cynicism and get behind his players ahead of Sunday's clash with Ivory Coast.

Keshi, visibly frustrated at the lack of support emanating from Lagos for his Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finalists, said: "It's a great shame that a nation doesn't have confidence in its sons, the players.

"It's pitiful, if my players hear that what sort of morale boost does that give them?

"The fans expect Ivory Coast to kill us, but football is about 11 v 11 over 90 minutes - anybody can think what they want, but we'll see what happens on Sunday."

Asked at a press conference on Friday if he had a message for the people back home he replied tersely: "No."

He added: "We want to contribute something tangible to this Nations Cup, otherwise we wouldn't be here."

Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo echoed his manager's sentiments.

"There was a lot of expectation before we came here, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Nigerians know their football, but all we need is their support and prayers and to believe in us.

"I think we will have an answer (to the critics) after the game on Sunday."

The experienced Fenerbahce defender added: "On paper the Ivory Coast are favourites, so people might class us as the underdogs, but we know the importance of this game, we're very, very focused.

"It's not about star names, it's not about individuals, it's about going through to the next stage."

The Ivorians hold the edge in their recent Nations Cup encounters with Nigeria, prevailing 1-0 via a Didier Drogba goal in the 2006 semi-finals in Egypt and by the same scoreline in the first round two years later in Ghana.