SEKONDI - The Elephants of Ivory Coast may be one of the tournament favourites for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations but Group B rivals Nigeria believe they have enough in the tank to go past them tonight.
They intend doing that on their way to a third continental crown when they meet in this their fifth clash in this competition, with the Super Eagles winning two of these encounters.
One of those victories was the pulsating 1994 semifinal in Tunisia as the teams battled to a thrilling 2-2 draw before the stalemate was settled on penalties as Nigeria went on to clinch their second Afcon title.
But two years ago in Egypt the Ivorians won 1-0 courtesy of a Didier Drogba goal to reach the final. That has now set the tone for a grudge match.
"Our spirits are high to win in Ghana and now we just need a little bit of luck to do that," said Nwankwo Kanu, the oldest and the most experienced player on the Nigerian squad.
The issue of money, which has often been a flash point between the players and authorities, has been settled well ahead of time and so the players know that they would earn a bonus of $49000 each by winning the cup.
The Ivory Coast landed the Afcon once, in Senegal in 1992.
They were 2006 finalists and also qualified for their first World Cup, where they held their own in a first round group that included Argentina and Holland.
Just weeks before the start of the Afcon, Frenchman Gerard Gili took over the reins from German coach Uli Stielike, who resigned for family reasons.
Gili, though, is no a stranger to this country as he was the man who guided them to qualify for the first time for the Olympics in Beijing.
His a stop-gap appointment as Stielike is expected to soon extend his contract with the Ivorian FA.
The Ivorians have received a major boost with the return of inspirational skipper Drogba after knee surgery in December and he announced his comeback with a goal against Kuwait in a warmup match prior to the Afcon.
Also tonight in the same group, Mali engage Benin at 9pm.
Tomorrow Egypt play Cameroon at 6.30pm while Sudan tackle Zambia (9pm). SuperSport will show all the matches live. - Sapa-AFP