Cote d’Ivoire win to advance to African Cup quarterfinals

Max Gradel celebrates after scoring against Cameroon.


MALABO, Equatorial Guinea — Max Gradel finally broke the string of draws in Group D and sent Cote d’Ivoire into the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations with the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Cameroon on Wednesday.

Gradel collected 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.

It was Cote d’Ivoire’s first victory in the group after a pair of 1-1 draws. All the other matches in the group, including Wednesday’s game between Mali and Guinea in Mongomo, also finished 1-1.

The result gives the Ivorians first place in the group and a quarterfinal match against Algeria on Sunday in Malabo. But second place will be decided by luck on Thursday with Mali and Guinea drawing lots to see who plays Ghana in Sunday’s early match.

Cote d’Ivoire 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 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 Cote d’Ivoire 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.