I.Coast clinch African Cup quarter-finals place
MALABO, Equatorial Guinea — Ivory Coast became the second country after Equatorial Guinea to reach the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals thanks to a 2-0 win over Burkina Faso in Group B Thursday.
Captain Didier Drogba crossed for Chelsea team-mate Salomon Kalou to score from close range early on and Bakary Kone headed an own goal in the closing stages to eliminate his team from the last-eight race.
The other knockout place rests between Angola and Sudan, who drew 2-2 in the first half of a double-header, with the Black Antelopes holding a three-point advantage going into the final series of games Monday.
Ivory Coast welcomed back midfield enforcer Didier Zokora after he missed the narrow win over Sudan last weekend through suspension and Igor Lolo dropped to the bench.
Burkina Faso paid dearly for sloppy defending when failing against Angola and made three changes with defender Mady Panandetiguiri, midfielder Mahamoudou Kere and striker Prejuce Nakoulma promoted.
The initial drama in another match that did not come close to filling the 15,000 Estadio Neuvo de Malabo seats came in the Ivorian box with felled Jonathan Pitroipa having a penalty appeal ignored.
Big-screen replays suggested the Egyptian referee made the right call in a tournament where the match officials have been the unsung stars, getting many difficult decisions correct.
It did not take long for the match to follow the expected trend with Ivory Coast pressing and Burkina Faso defending and the deadlock was broken just 16 minutes into the opening half.
Kalou created the Drogba match winner against Sudan and this time the roles were reversed with Kalou rifling a cross from his Chelsea team-mate past Daouda Diakite.
Realising a defeat would mean a fifth consecutive first round exit from the biennial African football showcase, the Burkinabe Stallions attacked from the start of the second half and put the Ivorian Elephants under pressure.
Ivory Coast countered with Gervinho wasting a good chance off a Jean-Jacques Gosso cross and the Arsenal striker had a close-range shot pushed away by Diakite after the raid in which Kalou pulled up injured and had to retire.
The seesaw struggle continued with Burkina Faso striker Moumouni Dagano outjumping Souleymane Bamba at the far post only for his header to rattle the woodwork and fly over.
Kone sealed the fate of the Burkinabe eight minutes from full-time when his looping back header off a free kick flew over Diakite and into the corner of the net.