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AFCON Day 12: Ivorians advance as Guinea, Mali await drawing of lots
Ivory Coast finally lived up to their billing at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, sending Cameroon home while Mali and Guinea played to yet another 1-1 draw as they wait to learn their quarter-final fate.
Cameroon 0-1 Ivory Coast
Cameroon XI: Ondoa; Guihoata, Nkoulou, Chedjou, Bedimo; Mandjeck, Mbia, Salli, Moukandjo, Choupo-Moting, Etoundi.
Ivory Coast XI: Gbohouo, Kolo Toure, Bailly, Kanon, Aurier, Yaya Toure, Die, Gradel, Tiene, Bony, Doumbia
Cameroon completed the quartet of surprise early exits in a 1-0 defeat to Ivory Coast; courtesy of Max Gradel.
With a last-eight spot at stake both sides played cautiously, making for a cagey opening interval with few chances early on.
The half was finally set alight through a stunning Max Gradel strike, one that may contend for the tournament’s top goal. He picked up a Tiene pass, cut in and unleashed a long range effort past Ondoa.
Cameroon meanwhile missed a chance to draw level as Salli’s shot sailed high of the target.
The second half followed in the first’s footsteps, as Cameroon struggled to create chances. Ivory Coast were on cruise control until Aboubakar’s late scuff, which sailed a foot or two wide of the net.
The Elephants win Group D with 5 points, advancing to take on Algeria in Sunday’s quarter-final.
Guinea 1-1 Mali
Guinea XI: Yattara, Constant ,Sankoh, Fofana, Sylla, Camara, Cisse, Traore, Conte, Keita, Yattara
Mali XI: Berthe, Diakite, Tamboura, Wague, Coulibaly, Keita, N’Diaye, Sylla, Maiga, Yatabare, Diaby
For the first time since 1988, lots will be drawn to determine who advances from an Africa Cup of Nations group, as nothing could separate Guinea and Mali after three rounds of matches – all ending in 1-1 draws.
Mali were the stronger team from the start but couldn’t translate their superior play into goals. The Malians had an early penalty appeal turned down before Guinea were awarded a spot kick moments later.
Kevin Constant made no mistake, notching home the penalty to temporarily put Guinea in first place in the group, as the Cameroon-Ivory Coast contest was still scoreless.
Just seconds after Guinea took the lead, Sankoh was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box, handing Mali a penalty of their own. Seydou Keita’s poor effort resulted in an easy save for Guinea goalkeeper Yattara. Nevertheless, Mali continued dominating and Maiga almost pulled them level before the break, drawing a fingertip save from Yattara.
He would not be denied the second time however, planting home a back-post header from a Diaby cross early in the second half to level the score. Mali continued pressing on the sub-par pitch conditions of Mongomo but couldn’t find a winner.
The draw leaves both teams in limbo, as they await tomorrow’s drawing of lots to find out which of them advances to face Group C winners Ghana in the quarter-finals.
Update (January 29): Guinea were determined to have finished second in Group D after the drawing of lots (which involved picking a ball from a bowl), today, at a hotel in Malabo. Representatives of both Mali and Guinea were present; Mali’s football association president, Boubacar Diarra and Guinea’s, financial director of the sports ministry, Amara Dabo. The former picked first and bore the luck of drawing Mali in third place.
Both parties, though, expressed disappointment that this was the arrangement for breaking ties and hoped for an improved, fairer, criteria; sentiments echoed by CAF.