Angola booked a semi-final showdown against Sudan next Tuesday with an 8-7 penalty shootout victory over Cameroon after neither team managed to find the net during 120 minutes of largely ultra-cautious football.
Tunisia did score once against the Congolese - winners of the inaugural tournament for home-based footballers in Côte D'Ivoire two years ago - and it was sufficient to see them through to a North Africa duel against Algeria.
Sudan and Algeria booked their places yesterday in contrasting style with the former edging ten-man Niger on penalties after a 1-1 draw while the latter were full value for a 2-0 win over shock qualifiers South Africa. The semi-finals winners advance to the 25 February climax of the three-week competition at the Al-Merreikh Stadium in Omdurman with a play-off for third place acting as curtain-raiser.
After 2009 runners-up Ghana made a humiliating first-round exit without securing a solitary point and a Congo DR team packed with stars from 2010 FIFA Club World Cup runners-up TP Mazembe also ousted, the title race is wide open.
Sudan have home advantage and partisan support in the often sauna-like conditions of capital Khartoum and twin city Omdurman while Algeria, Angola and Tunisia boast unbeaten records from four matches each.
Midfielder Fabricio Mafuta was the toast of Angola as he converted the spot kick that took the oil-rich southern Africa country through at the expense of impresive Group C table toppers Cameroon. A hat-trick of mini-league victories over Congo DR, Mali and Ivory Coast had installed Cameroon as favourites to win the tie and they got on top in extra time with long passes troubling their opponents.
They also had a chance to win the shootout via the last of ten mandatory kicks divided between the sides but Geremi Sagong fired wide to the dismay of Cameroonian supporters. After Mafuta edged Angola 8-7 ahead, substitute Jean-Paul Ekane was off target with his attempt to equalise in the sudden-death phase and Cameroon bade farewell to the championship.