Ivory Coast have booked a place in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations holding in Equatorial Guinea after recording their first win of the competition over rivals Cameroon in one of the last round of Group D matches on Wednesday.
A lone goal from Max-Alain Gradel was enough to guarantee a 1-0 victory for the Ivorians over Cameroon, who had defeated the Elephants 4-2 in the qualifiers for the tournament.
The Ivorians topped Group D with five points after recording the only win in the group which has recorded a 1-1 draw in all matches before Wednesday.
They have joined hosts Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tunisia, Ghana and Algeria in the quarterfinals, which will begin on Saturday.
The second place in the group will be decided by the drawing of lots on Thursday (today) after Mali and Guinea played out another 1-1 draw on Wednesday night.
The two sides are tied on the same number of points (three) and both had no goal difference after scoring three goals and conceding three goals.
Cameroon needed a win, just like the Ivorians, to avoid the drop and taking the group to a complete dependence on the drawing of lots but lost the match to the superior technical play of the Ivorians.
Wednesday’s ouster is the first time Cameroon would fail to qualify for the quarter finals of the AFCON since 1996 although they did not qualify for the 2012 and 2013 editions while the Ivorians secured their sixth straight quarterfinal berth of the competition.
Both sides threw everything at each other from the first blast of the whistle but goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa of Cameroon was first called into action when he saved a header from Serge Aurier. Cameroon sat back and tried to contain the wave of attack from the Ivorians while hitting them on the counter attack. The Elephants made more incursions into the Cameroonian territory but their efforts were thwarted by the brilliance of goalkeeper Ondoa.
But their persistence was to yield fruits in the 35th minute when Gradel finished off a good team move with a 20-yard shot which was faster than Ondoa.
Elephants coach, Herve Renard, attributed the win to team spirit.
“I have been asked that what is the major ingredient needed to win this tournament after a long stay in Africa and I have always said that it is team spirit. That is what was showed today,” he told Supersport after the match.
Nigeria defeated the Ivorians 2-1 at the quarterfinal stage of the 2013 edition in South Africa, where the Eagles won the trophy for the third time.