Ivory Coast and Nigeria progress

Ivory Coast top Group B while Nigeria go ahead of Mali to qualify for the quarters.

    Didier Drogba opened the scoring against Mali in his 50th international for Ivory Coast [Reuters]

    Nigeria, who benefitted from goals by John Obi Mikel and Aiyegbeni Yakubu, now have a knock-out encounter with Ghana in a tantalising final eight match-up.
    For Ivory Coast, Didier Drogba marked his 50th international cap with the opening goal of the match against Mali, before Benfica's Marc Zoro and Boubacar Sanogo added two more in the second half in Accra.

    "We had a difficult group and it was no dishonour for us to fail to qualify."

    Jean-Francois Jodar,
    Mali coach

    "We saw today the quality of the Ivorians, even without their regulars," said Jean-Francois Jodar, Mali coach.
    "We had a difficult group and it was no dishonour for us to fail to qualify.
    "We are extremely disappointed. My team did not play at all in the first half and with a lot of attackers in the second half we still failed to find the goal.
    "Maybe the pressure of this decisive game affected us mentally."
    Gerard Gili, Ivory Coast coach, made five changes to the side that beat Benin, including the omission of Arsenal defender Kolo Toure who was missing through injury.
    Mali were without suspended Real Madrid midfielder and skipper Mahamadou Diarra, with Greece-based Bassala Toure inheriting the captain's armband, while Momo Sissoko, back from signing with Juventus, started on the bench.
    Drogba in the dog-house
    Drogba, whose wife is from Mali, risked a frosty reception at home when he put the Ivorians up 1-0 after nine minutes, latching on to Yaya Toure pass and slotting the ball past Mali keeper Mahamadou Sidibe from the left of the area.
    Down the other end Fredi Kanoute narrowly failed to get his head to a well targeted 30-yard free kick as Mali went for the all important equaliser.
    A draw would have been good enough for Mali to progress, but any notion their regional mates might help out were dispelled when the Ivorians went further ahead in the 53rd minute through Zoro's header from a Kader Keita corner.
    Mali went close to pulling one back when Seydou Keita floated the ball into the area only for Dramane Traore's angled header to hit the crossbar, and it was all over when Sanogo pounced on a rebound to complete the Ivorians' victory with five minutes to go.
    Nigeria scrape through

    Nigeria got their heads in front of Mali, and are
    into the quarter-finals on goal difference [AFP]

    Over in Sekondi, Nigeria needed to win by at least two clear goals against Benin and hope Ivory Coast beat Mali to qualify, and the Super Eagles held up their part of the deal, although it took 52 minutes to break Benin down.
    Berti Vogts's side had failed to score in their first two matches, losing 1-0 to Ivory Coast and drawing 0-0 against Mali.
    Nigeria improved after a lacklustre first half at the Essipon Stadium and made the breakthrough on 52 minutes when Mikel headed in a Peter Odemwingie cross after Benin keeper Yoann Djidonou failed to clear a Taye Taiwo free kick.
    Chelsea midfielder Mikel then set up Everton striker Yakubu, who selaed the win with a clinical finish four minutes from time.
    Benin, who were out of contention before kickoff and have now lost all their matches in two Nations Cup finals, had their best opportunity two minutes into the second half but Stephane Sessegnon's attempt was parried away by Nigerian keeper Ejide.
    "We asked for something of a miracle and it happened. We are now up against the host team and if we want to progress in this competition, we will have to beat them as well," said Osaze Odemwingie, Nigerian forward.
    "We showed great mental strength and that is what we will need again on Sunday.
    "Rule us out at your own risk."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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