Ivory Coast’s safety first approach paid off as they reached the African Nations Cup quarter-finals on Thursday but similar tactics backfired for Angola in a 2-2 draw with Sudan, who had not scored at the tournament for the previous 36 years.
The Ivorians, apparently traumatised by their dramatic quarter-final exit at the hands of Algeria two years ago, managed a flattering 2-0 win over Burkina Faso on a steamy evening for their second straight win of the tournament.
Angola crawled back into their shell immediately after taking a 2-1 lead over Sudan early in the second half and had two players booked for time-wasting before their opponents deservedly equalised.
Despite this, coach Lito Vidigal was awarded the game’s fair play trophy although it was not explained why.
Angola, with four points from two games, need a draw against the Ivorians on Monday to qualify but if they lose, Sudan could overhaul them with a win against Burkina, who have no points and are eliminated.
Burkina’s fiery coach Paulo Duarte went out with a bang as he lambasted his federation over the failure to obtain clearance for three naturalised players.
“We lost three players just before the start because we didn’t manage to get them qualified,” said the fiery Portuguese, often known as the African Mourinho.
“That just can’t be allowed to happen, it’s unthinkable… it’s primitive.”
“On the field we play quality football, off the field there are successive errors. I haven’t decided if I will continue yet. That option is open to me but I’ll have to think about it.”
The Ivorians were the second team to reach the last eight after co-hosts Equatorial Guinea, who triggered wild celebrations with a shock 2-1 win over Senegal in Bata on Wednesday night.
Gabon, the other co-hosts, could go through on Friday if they beat Morocco and Tunisia take a point against Niger in a Group C double bill in Libreville.
Ivory Coast, who survived a penalty appeal early on when Jonathan Pitroipa was tripped, went ahead in the 16th minute against Burkina when two defenders failed to cut out a cross and Salomon Kalou fired home.
They sat on their lead, survived a few scares and made the game safe thanks to a bizarre own goal by Bakary Kone, who sent a backwards header over stranded goalkeeper Daouda Diakite following an Ivorian free kick into the area.
“For the second game in a row, we haven’t conceded a goal,” said the Ivorians’ coach Francois Zahouis, clearly outlining his priorities.
In the first game of the double bill at the picturesque Estadio Nuevo de Malabo, Manucho twice put Angola ahead, with the second goal coming from the penalty spot, but Ahmed Bashir replied each time for the Sudanese.
Manucho dispossessed a defender to fire home Angola’s first in the fifth minute before Bashir headed Sudan level just after the half hour.
It was Sudan’s first goal at the tournament after they scored against Zaire in 1976. Since then, they have only qualified once, in 2008, when they lost all three games 3-0.
Angola regained the lead with a Manucho penalty three minutes after halftime, his third goal of the tournament.
But Bashir hooked in the equaliser in the 73rd minute for Sudan, whose entire squad consists of home-based players.