Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba Takes Center Stage in Today's African Nations Cup Semifinals
ALEXANDRIA (Reuters) - Didier Drogba will step firmly into the African Nations Cup spotlight on Tuesday when he leads Ivory Coast in their first African Nations Cup semi-final appearance in a more than a decade.
The Chelsea striker is now firmly established as the star attraction at the tournament in Egypt with the Ivorians meeting Nigeria in Alexandria to play for a place in the final.
Drogba overshadowed Samuel Eto'o his rival for the African Footballer of the Year award later this month in scoring the decisive penalty to put Ivory Coast into the last four in a dramatic shootout victory over Cameroon in Cairo on Saturday.
For team mate Kolo Toure Drogba presents a potentially decisive edge in the first competitive meeting between Ivory Coast and Nigeria since the 1994 Nations Cup semi-final won by the Nigerians on penalties.
'Drogba is a really great player and he is something special. We are really proud of what he is a doing for the team.
'It's going to be a very hard game. But now we are in the semi-finals anything can happen. We've got our chance' said Toure.
Drogba will lead the Ivorian attack against a young Nigerian side that includes several emerging talents with the potential to match Drogba's profile in the future.
While Ivory Coast are headed to the World Cup in Germany and seeking affirmation of their future potential at the Nations Cup Nigeria are looking for redemption for past failure.
Coach Augustine Eguavoen said failure to qualify for Germany remained a strong motivation for success in Egypt.
'We want to compensate for missing out on the World Cup and also for not winning the Nations Cup for a long time.
'We had a little luck in getting through to the semi-finals but I've always said that you need some luck in tournaments like this' Eguavoen said.
Nigeria eliminated 2004 champions Tunisia on penalties in Port Said on Saturday.
'It's going to be a very hard game very physical but we will be on a equal footing because both of us have played extra time' Ivory Coast coach Henri Michel told reporters in Cairo prior to his team's departure for Alexandria.