Ivory Coast fans will be hoping their team can hold it together against Nigeria.

Rustenburg – Ivory Coast boss Sabri Lamouchi says victory this weekend is crucial to his squad's future plans as they look to reach the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals.

The Elephants take on Nigeria at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Phokeng, outside Rustenburg, on Sunday evening.

“In terms of the spirit in the camp, everything is set and we are ready for the game against Nigeria,” Lamouchi said on Friday.

“We will do our best. The morale is high and we'll see what Sunday has to offer us.

“This game is crucial for us. We are opening a new chapter… a competition within a competition.”

Having entered the tournament as favourites, Lamouchi said it was up to the players to ensure the Afcon trophy returned to the west African nation for the first time since 1992.

“We know that we are facing a strong Nigeria team, one of the strongest in the competition,” said the former France international.

“We respect our opponents, but win in this game and you go through, lose and you go home.

“Our goal is to win, our boys are ready and prepared to face Nigeria and this time win the tournament.”

Ivory Coast qualified top of group D, having claimed victories over Togo and Tunisia, before playing to a 2-2 draw against Algeria.

Lamouchi was pleased with the team's efforts heading into the knockout rounds and said the 2012 runners-up did nothing special, but instead stuck to the basics and relied on the core of their team to carry them through.

“There is no secret. All the players are professionals, they know their role and play their roles,” he said.

“One thing I can say is that maybe we have a bit of luck that is helping us, but we do what needs to be done and that is it.

“The players are fantastic, they are the ones who need to be congratulated and they are the ones who can change the game.”

Ivorian midfielder Didier Ya Konan, meanwhile, said they were in high spirits and hoped to live up to their tag as tournament top dogs.

“We are ready. People are saying that we are favourites, we'll have that in mind when we take to the field on Sunday,” Ya Konan said.

“It's very important that we fight and do our best in order to at least win the tournament this year.” – Sapa