Ivorian win helps Nigeria advance
Côte d'Ivoire became the second team after hosts Ghana to
finish the first round of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations with a 100
per cent record following a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Mali in
Accra. The win also opened the door for Nigeria to sneak through as
Group B runners-up, but only on goal difference courtesy of a 2-0
defeat of Benin in Sekondi.
A favour for Nigeria, none for Mali
With the Ivorians already through to the last eight, cynics pointed to the possibility of them taking their feet of the pedal. But that theory was swiftly swept aside when Didier Drogba grabbed the opening goal after just nine minutes. Côte d'Ivoire might have been further ahead at half-time after squandering several good chances, but after the interval they added goals from Marc Zoro and Boubacar Sanogo, both netting for the first time in their international careers.
Nigeria escaped the ignominy of early elimination more due to Ivorian generosity rather than on the strength of their own performance. It took them 52 minutes to open the scoring when John Obi Mikel finished at the end of a goal-mouth scramble following Taye Taiwo's powerful free-kick. Yakubu Aiyegbeni got the second in the closing stages.
Côte d'Ivoire 3-0 Mali
Didier Drogba (9'), Marc Zoro (54'), Boubacar Sanogo (85')
As group winners, Côte d'Ivoire will return to Sekondi to face Guinea in their quarter-final on Sunday. Nigeria have set up a mouth-watering west African grudge match against hosts Ghana at Accra's Ohene Djan stadium, sure to be packed to the rafters on Sunday for the first of the quarter-finals.
Goal of the Day
Côte d'Ivoire 3-0 Mali 0 (Marc Zoro 52')
Defender Zoro was brought in on Tuesday for a first competitive match since the end of last season. He has not played at his new club Benfica, where he moved from Italy in June, but capped his return to the pitch with a stellar defensive performance and a powerful header from a corner, celebrated with great joy by all his team-mates
Player of the Day
Didier Drogba led by example as a second-string side overwhelmed Mali. He got the first goal, had one effort cleared off the line and did a lot of defensive work to inspire his team-mates, before being taken off for a well earned rest with 15 minutes left.
3 goals: Hosni Abd Rabou (EGY), Soufiane Alloudi (MAR), Samuel Eto'o (CAM), Manucho (ANG)
2 goals: Mohamed Aboutrika (EGY), Brian Brendell (NAM), Francileudo dos Santos (TUN), Didier Drogba (CIV), Pascal Feindouno (GUI), Joseph-Desire Job (CAM), Sulley Muntari (GHA), Mohamed Zidan (EGY)
The Day Ahead
Egypt-Zambia (Kumasi, 17h00 local time Group C)
Cameroon-Sudan (Tamale, 17h00, local time Group C)