Desert Foxes sneak into quarters
© AFP

Day 9 - Algeria and hosts Angola played to a scoreless draw in Luanda, which was enough for both sides to book their places in the quarter-finals of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations.

The Angolans ended up topping Group A with five points, while Algeria and Mali both finished on four, with the Desert Foxes advancing thanks to their 1-0 defeat of the Les Aigles in the last round.

Mali scored two goals in the opening three minutes and went on to defeat Malawi 3-1 in Monday’s other match. The Malawians started the tournament with a shock 3-0 defeat of FIFA World Cup-bound Algeria, and they could have reached their first CAN last eight with a draw.

Algeria must now face the winner of Group B in the next round, which seems sure to be Côte d'Ivoire, while Angola get to stay in the capital Luanda and will likely meet the winner of tomorrow’s Ghana and Burkina Faso match.

Results
Angola 0-0 Algeria
Mali 3-1 Malawi (Kanoute 1’, Keita 3’, Bagayoko 85’; Russel 58’) 

Goal of the day
Mali 2-0 Malawi, Seydou Keita (3’)
Fresh from kick-off after Kanoute’s opener, the ball came to Mali’s goalkeeper who booted it forward, from which Peter Mponda gave away a free-kick 35 yards away from his goal. From such innocuous circumstances, Barcelona’s Seydou Keita scored surely one of the best goals of the event with a rocket of a free kick across goalkeeper Swadick Sanudi and into the top left corner of the net. The stunning strike left a shaken Sanudi picking the ball out of his goal for the second time before much of the crowd had even settled.

Memorable Moments
Quick thinking from Kanoute
While he could do little to keep out Keita’s free-kick, goalkeeper Sanudi will be kicking himself over the even-earlier goal that contributed so much to Malawi’s horrible start. A few touches from kick-off, the South Africa-based netminder tried to clear the ball back up the field, but it made its way only as far as Kanoute 40 yards out from goal. Back in the starting line-up, the Sevilla striker pounced on it without controlling the ball and volleyed it into the open goal while Sanudi's dove was too late. It was a terrible moment for the Flames, and their misery was about to double.

Preserving a draw
Well-travelled Angolan goalkeeper Carlos made the save of the lacklustre match between Angola and Algeria in the 22nd minute when it looked like Madjid Bougherra was sure to score from Nadir Belhadj’s free-kick. However, Carlos got a fortunate touch off his leg and then smothered the ball well from point-blank range.

The Flames reignite
After their struggles in the opening minutes, Malawi played second fiddle for most of the match to a confident Mali side. However after half-time they seemed to recover their feet and they got a deserved goal just short of the hour mark when Russell Mwafulirwa took advantage of Mali’s failure to clear a cross from the left flank by Peter Mponda. Following a goal-mouth scramble in Mali's box that left goalkeeper Mahamadou Sedibe stranded, Mponda again found himself with the ball and picked out Mwafulirwa, who had quietly sneaked in behind the Mali defence. The lanky striker had the easiest of tasks as he converted the chance on an empty net to give the Malawians a chance.

From hero to villain
After his goal put Malawi in with a shout, Mwafulirwa was so close to achieving national hero status back in his native land, but the Sweden-based player missed a gilt-edged chance to even the score near the 71st-minute mark. Trouble again came down the left flank, this time from Josephy Kamwendo, but the wide-open Mwafulirwa headed down into the pitch and then watched the ball bound over from just three metres out with the goal again at his mercy.

The stat
13 – The number of goals scored in Mali’s three group matches, seven of which were netted by the West Africans. Eight of that total of course came from the wild opening match against Angola that ended 4-4 after Mali scored four goals after the 79th minute. The CAF Africa Cup of Nations will surely suffer a drop in the level of excitement without them.

What they said
"We didn’t go through, and that is very disappointing. I think things went wrong in the second game -- we were not good enough and Algeria beat us. Even with a win today, I knew that we would need more than that. We were hoping that Angola would win in front of their home crowd. I’m disappointed.” Mali’s expert striker Frederic Kanoute, who won the African Footballer of the Year award in 2007.

"We have fulfilled our first objective of qualifying for the next round, and now we are going to go all out to do one better than we have ever done before." Angola coach Manuel Jose, who was hired to lead the team in May of last year. The Black Antelopes have never done better than in 2008 when they lost in the quarter-finals to Egypt 2-1.

Tomorrow’s matches
Burkina Faso - Ghana (19 Jan. 16:00 GMT)

Have your say
Were Algeria and Angola the two best teams from Group A? Click on 'Add your comment' and share your opinion with other football fans from around the world.