Vol. 5 Num 591 Thu. January 26, 2006  

African Cup of Nations

Ivory Coast into quarters

Ivory Coast became the first team to make it into the last eight of the African Nations Cup as they unconvincingly beat Libya 2-1 and Group A rivals Egypt and Morocco drew 0-0.

Victory gave Ivory Coast six points and set them fair to emulate the 1992 side that lifted the trophy while Egypt must get a point from their last match against the group leaders to secure their passage.

Morocco - who have yet to score in the tournament - must beat Libya convincingly and hope the hosts slip up in their match on Saturday.

Ivory Coast were far from convincing - just as they hadn't been against Morocco in the opening 1-0 win - against a Libyan side that boasted the most stylish player on the pitch in playmaker and skipper Tariq El Taib.

Sadly he could not also play in goal as two dreadful errors by Libyan goalkeeper Muftah Ghzalla handed the Elephants victory.

Goals by Didier Drogba - his 19th in 26 internationals - and a second-half effort from Gnegneri Toure gave them victory while Libya's goal came from Abdesalam Khames, who deservedly levelled the match late in the first-half.

Ivory Coast coach Henri Michel was pleased with the result.

"We played against a very good Libyan side," said the 57-year-old Frenchman.

"We started the match well and perhaps that is why we took our foot off the pedal."

El Taib bemoaned his side's luck but with nothing to lose in their final match they could well give Morocco a run for their money.

"We deserved a draw and certainly did not deserve to lose," said the 27-year-old, who plays for Turkish side Gaziantespor.

"It is our first championship in 24 years and I think we performed well and will do our best in the final match against Morocco."

The Egypt-Morocco clash, like a lot of 'derbies', failed to lived up to its billing and was a frenetic affair with few shots testing the keepers, though Youssef Hadji almost secured the three points with a header but it was clawed away by Tarik El Jarmouni.

Egypt's glamour boy Mido was shadowed all night by Spurs team-mate Noureddine Naybet, who even at 35 showed there is life in those old legs, and the 22-year-old striker was replaced before the end.

Egypt assistant coach Shawki Gharib said it was a good result.

"They are one of the best sides in Africa and they went unbeaten in all their qualifiers.

"We kept trying and we were the ones still trying to win it in the last 15 minutes.

"It is a good result."

Mohammed Fakhir, the Morocco coach, said he would keep on hoping until the final whistle of the last game.

"The hope is still there mathematically: we still have a chance but it doesn't depend on us."

BALLET TROUPE! Ivory Coast players dance for joy after Didier Drogba's strike against Libya during their African Nations Cup encounter in Cairo on Tuesday. PHOTO: AFP