Ivory Coast, Togo advance in African Cup
RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AFP) — A virtual second-string Ivory Coast side scored twice inside four minutes to snatch a 2-2 draw with Algeria yesterday at the Africa Cup of Nations.
In Nelspruit, Togo drew 1-1 with Tunisia on Wednesday to complete the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final cast and send the Carthage Eagles heading back to Tunis.
Meanwhile, Didier Drogba and Wilfried Bony struck for the title favourites Ivory Coast after Sofiane Feghouli and Hilal Soudani had put the Desert Foxes two goals ahead with 20 minutes remaining.
When the draw was made last October, this fixture stood out as a highlight of the 24 first-round fixtures, but when the teams walked on to the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace pitch only pride was at stake.
Victories over Togo and Tunisia had clinched top spot for Ivory Coast with a game to spare, while losses to the same countries had eliminated Algeria, who are ranked second in Africa behind the west Africans.
Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi continued his rotation policy, making nine changes from the line-up that started in an impressive 3-0 victory over Tunisia last Saturday.
Midfielder Koffi 'Romaric' N'Dri and striker Salomon Kalou were the only 'elephants' retained and those recalled included captain Drogba and Manchester City centre-back Kolo Toure.
Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic resisted wholesale changes despite losses to Tunisia and Togo eliminating his team. He called up Khaled Lemmouchia and Ryad Boudebouz in place of Foued Kadir and Sofiane Feghouli.
Boudebouz had the best chance to break the deadlock in a boring, goalless opening half, but struck a seventh-minute penalty against the right post and it rebounded to safety.
It was a dubious spot kick on two counts, with Soudani going down far too easily after the slightest of touches from Ismael Traore, and the foul appeared to have been committed ouside the box.
Kalou had a chance when a long ball fell into his path off the back of Drogba, but he blazed the ball over, and Drogba was guilty of equally poor finishing near half-time with a left-foot shot.
In the Togo-Tunisia showdown, Serge Gakpe got Togo off and running but that effort was cancelled out by Khalid Mouelhi's penalty. Both countries finished level on points, with Togo owing their first appearance in the knockout stages at the seventh attempt to superior goal difference.
Mouelhi then missed from the spot late in the second half, his failure condemning Tunisia to an early exit.
The draw bagged Togo the runners-up spot in Group D and a last eight match-up with Burkina Faso here on Sunday.
Group D winners Ivory Coast meet Nigeria in Rustenburg the same day.