Malabo - Ivory Coast have stormed into the quarter-finals of the African Nations Cup after a 1-0 victory over Cameroon in Malabo on Wednesday.
The Ivorians top Group D after Max Gradel’s first-half strike handed them the points and supplied the only victory in the six matches in the pool.
Mali and Guinea will have to endure the drawing of lots on Thursday after they played to a 1-1 draw and cannot be separated for second place.
For Cameroon it is more disappointment in tournament football as they drop out at the first hurdle, just as they did at the World Cup in Brazil last year.
The better chances fell to Ivory Coast, but Cameroon certainly had enough opportunities to get something from the game.
Cameroon goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa reacted well to hold onto the ball when it deflected off the thigh of Wilfried Bony’s.
But the Ivorians were ahead on 35 minutes as Gradel found space on the edge of the box and with the Cameroon defence slow to close him down, the midfielder found the tightest of gaps between Ondoa and the left-hand post.
It was the second game in a row that Gradel has netted for his side after scoring an equaliser against Mali last time out.
Cameroon should have been level deep into first half injury-time, but Edgar Salli blasted over from close-range when he really should have hot the target.
Bony’s thunderous drive tested the palms of Ondoa, while at the other end Vincent Aboubakar failed to get a decisive connection on a low cross and the ball trickled to Ivorian goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo.
The Ivorians have now set up a quarter-final against Algeria in Malabo on Sunday.
Ivory Coast (1) 1 (Gradel 35’)
Cameroon: Joseph Fabrice Ondoua, Aurelien Chedjou, Henri Bedimo Nsame, Jerome Guihota, Nicolas N'Koulou, Edgar Salli (Vincent Aboubakar 46’), Stephane Mbia, Georges Mandjeck, Benjamin Moukandjo (Clinton N'Jie 67’), Eric Choupo-Moting, Franck Etoundi (Leonard Kweuke 55’)
Ivory Coast: Sylvain Gbohouo, Siaka Tiene, Kolo Toure, Eric Bailly (Ousmane Viera 28’), Serge Aurier, Serge Wilfried Kanon, Yaya Toure (Cheick Doukouré 82’), Max Gradel, Geoffroy Serey Die, Wilfried Bony, Seydou Doumbia (Junior Tallo 59’)