Unnerving silence swept through Abidjan and its neigbouring towns on Sunday as the Super Eagles of Nigeria trashed the highly favoured Elephants of Cote d'Ivoire. The game, which was apparently dominated by the Eagles, ended 2-1.
The Eagles clinched the semi-final ticket in a highly technical game that left Ivorian fans, analysts and players stunned at the poor performance of the Elephants. It was observed that many fans sat speechless for the duration of the game.
"What happened to the Ivorian team?" a sports analyst, Anne N'guessan asked. N'guessan said the Elephants put up the worst performance since the commencement of the tournament.
"Right from the blow of the whistle from the start, the Elephants were just trying to catch up with the pace of the Nigerians. Our coach, Sabri Lamouchi, saw it, but he did not effect early changes to alter the rhythm of play."
Fans, who were seen in groups after the game, said the Nigerian team was a better side in all departments of play. Bienvenue Yao, a fan said: "We were playing like one village team that the Eagles were using for training. All our wings were clipped and we were completely absent."
The highly optimistic fans, who have a culture of combing the streets with the Elephants' orange, green and white colours, quickly pulled off after the games. Salif Keita said he expected the Elephants to trash the young Nigerians, 4-0.
"We were still stunned by the outcome of the game and by the beauty of the Nigerian side. Our national team needs an overhaul from the coach to the players."
Unlike the aftermath of previous matches, roadside bars were empty but for a handful, who stayed back to analyse the encounter. Viewing centres set up by telecom outfits and other companies were deserted at the end of the match.
Meanwhile, Nigerians in Cote d'Ivoire took to the streets to celebrate, although cautiously. Jude Okafor, a businessman in Abidjan, said the Nigerian team was "impressive", crediting the coach, Stephen Keshi, for the finishing touch on the team.
In Adjame, Treichville and Makori towns in Abidjan, pockets of Nigrians also took to the streets to celebrate. A source at the Nigerian Embassy said that the embassy had warned that celebrations in Abidjan must be low-key. The source said: "It is still a very sensitive environment after the crisis and Ivorians are crazy about football, so we must be careful."