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Ivory Coast advances to African Cup quarterfinals; Mali and Guinea will need luck of the draw

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MALABO, Equatorial Guinea — The luck of the draw will decide the final quarterfinalist at the African Cup of Nations.

The Ivory Coast earned its spot from Group D by beating Cameroon 1-0 on Wednesday, but Mali and Guinea drew 1-1 yet again, meaning they cannot be separated in the standings.

Instead, the African football confederation will put the names of the two teams into balls on Thursday at a hotel in Malabo and an official will pick one of them. Whichever one is chosen will advance.

"It's hard for each team because nobody deserves to be out of the competition," Guinea coach Michel Dussuyer said. "But now it is a reality we have to face."

There had been a possibility that all four teams would be in the draw, but Ivory Coast managed to hold on for victory in Malabo — the only result in the group that did not finish 1-1.

In Mongomo, Guinea took the lead when Kevin Constant converted a 15th-minute penalty. Mali had a chance to equalize two minutes later but captain Seydou Keita missed a penalty at the other end.

The equalizer eventually came in the second half through forward Modibo Maiga's back-post header.

But since Mali and Guinea could not be separated on the field, they will be separated by luck.

PHOTO: Ivory Coast's Soccer players celebrates  after their African Cup of Nations Group D soccer match  with Cameroon at Estadio De Malabo in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Ivory Coast's Soccer players celebrates after their African Cup of Nations Group D soccer match with Cameroon at Estadio De Malabo in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

"They are the regulations of the competition and we have to go by them," Mali coach Henryk Kasperczak said. "But it doesn't work well. They (CAF) need to look at it again."

Max Gradel scored the only goal of the match at Malabo Stadium after collecting a pass from Siaka Tiene that went through the legs of Cameroon forward Edgar Salli. He then ran toward the middle of the field before unleashing a hard shot that flew past a diving Fabrice Ondoa.

The result gives the Ivorians first place in the group and a quarterfinal match against Algeria on Sunday in Malabo. In Sunday's early match at the same venue, the lucky team from Thursday's draw will face Ghana.

Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard, who has worked with several teams around the continent, coached in Algeria a few years ago, so his next opponent is no stranger.

"I spent a very, very good time over there, and now I have to make them cry," Renard said. "It's just a joke. I have a lot of friends in Algeria."

The Ivory Coast was playing its second straight match without Gervinho, the Roma forward who was given a straight red card in the opening game against Guinea and was then handed a two-match suspension.

But Gradel has been getting things done up front among a team that includes Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony and Salomon Kalou. The Saint-Etienne midfielder has scored two goals in two matches. On Saturday, he came on as a substitute and scored an 87th-minute equalizer in the 1-1 draw with Mali.

Cameroon again played an up-tempo game, but rarely threatened the Ivory Coast goal. One of the best chances of the first half for the Cameroonians came when Salli shot over the bar in the final seconds. More chances came in the second half as the Ivorians sat back, but there was no finishing touch.

"I think the Ivory Coast took advantage of a little mistake we made in the first half to score the goal," Cameroon coach Volker Finke said. "In the first half we had two or three really good chances but didn't score, and that is the reason we lost."

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