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Luck from the drawing of lots just might decide who advances from Group D at African Cup

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MALABO, Equatorial Guinea — The two quarterfinalists from Group D at the African Cup of Nations just might be decided by luck.

The Ivory Coast was held to 1-1 by Mali on Saturday at Malabo Stadium, and Cameroon was held to the same score by Guinea a few hours later.

That makes four straight 1-1 draws in the group, giving each team two points and nothing to separate them in the standings.

"We fear no one and I'm confident that we can qualify and do something big for our country," said Guinea captain Ibrahima Traore, who scored the equalizing goal on Saturday.

In the last set of group matches on Wednesday, Cameroon will play Ivory Coast in Malabo, while Guinea faces Mali in Mongomo.

If both matches are again the same even score, then officials will decide which teams advance. If two of the teams win, then goal difference could decide who finishes first in the group and who gets second. But if the winning scores are the same in both, the drawing of lots will decide who finishes first.

In the event that one match produces a winner and the other is a draw, then the two teams with three points will go to the drawing of lots to see which advances and which is eliminated.

For the Ivory Coast, which is playing without the suspended Gervinho, tactical changes again helped to avoid defeat on Saturday.

First-half substitute Max Gradel beat another substitute, Mali goalkeeper Germain Berthe, in the 87th minute to rescue the Ivorians this time.

PHOTO: Mali's Bakary Sako, center, celebrates with teammates after scoing against Ivory Coast  during their African Cup of Nations Group D soccer match at the Estadio De Malabo in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Mali's Bakary Sako, center, celebrates with teammates after scoing against Ivory Coast during their African Cup of Nations Group D soccer match at the Estadio De Malabo in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

"We had to adapt as the game went on and make formational changes," said Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard, who also made a late decisive change in the 1-1 draw with Guinea in the opening match.

The Malians took an early lead when Bakary Sako blasted in a cross from Sambou Yatabare in the seventh minute. But as time was winding down, Renard made his final two changes - and it worked again.

Renard brought on Gradel to replace Ismael Diomande in the 39th. The midfielder was the player who lost possession when Mali created its goal.

The last two changes came in the 83rd when forward Salomon Kalou came on for defender Wilfried Kanon and in the 84th when forward Junior Tallo replaced Wilfried Bony, another forward.

"It's two points lost, make no mistake," Mali captain Seydou Keita said. "Yes, Ivory Coast have a big reputation but we care nothing about that, we have lost two points."

Gervinho will also miss the match against Cameroon. He was given a straight red card in the opening match and subsequently handed a two-match suspension.

In the second match, Traore scored the equalizer late in the first half to hold Cameroon to the eighth 1-1 draw of the 16 matches so far at the tournament.

Traore scored just before halftime, collecting a pass in the area and then turning and shooting past Cameroon goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa.

"We've played two of the favorites of the competition and not lost," said Traore, who also helped his team draw 1-1 with the Ivorians on Tuesday. "We just have to continue the way we're playing. We have what it takes to qualify."

Benjamin Moukandjo gave Cameroon the lead in the 13th direct from a corner kick. And Vincent Aboubakar had several chances throughout the match to add more but couldn't convert.

"We had about 120 chances in the second half," Cameroon coach Volker Finke said. "But they had chances, too."

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