Ivory Coast tops Cameroon, is through to Cup of Nations quarterfinals
MALABO, Equatorial Guinea (AP) — Max Gradel finally broke the string of draws in Group D and sent the Ivory Coast into the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations with the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Cameroon on Wednesday.
Gradel collected a pass from Siaka Tiene that went through the legs of Cameroon forward Edgar Salli. He then ran toward the middle of the field before unleashing a hard shot that flew past a diving Fabrice Ondoa.
It was Ivory Coast's first victory in the group after a pair of 1-1 draws. All the other matches in the group, including Wednesday's game between Mali and Guinea in Mongomo, also finished 1-1.
Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard said before the match that his team was just starting to really get going at the tournament. They certainly got it done Wednesday against one of the other big favorites.
"When you play Cameroon you don't have to try to find the motivation," said Renard, who won the African Cup title with Zambia in 2012.
The result gives the Ivorians first place in the group and a quarterfinal match against Algeria on Sunday in Malabo. But second place will be decided by luck on Thursday with Mali and Guinea drawing lots to see who plays Ghana in Sunday's early match.
Renard, who has coached several teams around the continent, worked in Algeria a few years ago, so his next opponent is no stranger.
"I spent a very, very good time over there, and now I have to make them cry," Renard said. "It's just a joke. I have a lot of friends in Algeria."
The Ivory Coast was playing its second straight match without Gervinho, the Roma forward who was given a straight red card in the opening game against Guinea and then handed a two-match suspension.
But Gradel has been getting things done up front among a team that includes Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony and Salomon Kalou. The Saint-Etienne midfielder has scored two goals in two matches. On Saturday, he came on as a substitute and scored an 87th-minute equalizer in the 1-1 draw with Mali.
Cameroon again played an up-tempo game, but rarely threatened the Ivory Coast goal. One of the best chances of the first half for the Cameroonians came when Salli shot over the bar in the final seconds. More chances came in the second half as the Ivorians sat back, but there was no finishing touch.
"I think the Ivory Coast took advantage of a little mistake we made in the first half to score the goal," Cameroon coach Volker Finke said. "In the first half we had two or three really good chances but didn't score, and that is the reason we lost."