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Algeria set up semis date with Nigeria; Beat Cote d’Ivoire on penalties

BY: Rosalind K. Amoh
 Algeria players celebrate with goalkeeper  Rais M'Bolhi after their shootout victory
Algeria players celebrate with goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi after their shootout victory

Algeria set up a semi-final date with Nigeria yesterday after beating Cote d’Ivoire in their quarter-final encounter at the Suez Stadium at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Sunday’s match will be a playback of the 1990 AFCON final which the Algerians won 1-0 as hosts.

Maintaining their unbeaten run, Algeria’s Desert Foxes prevailed against an improved Elephants side, including recovering from a missed penalty kick during open play, to win 4-3 during the tie-breaking shootout as the game ended 1-1 after extra time.

As has been characteristic of penalty kicks, it was Cote d’Ivoire’s big boys — Wilfried Bony and Serey Die — who missed their kicks to end their campaign and hand the important victory to the 1990 African champions who remain in contention for their second AFCON title.

It was sweet revenge for the Algerians, who at the same quarter-finals in 2015 were eliminated by the Ivorians with a 3-1 victory en route to eventually winning the continental title.

At this tournament in Egypt, the Algerians have been the most impressive side and they showed up with the same character and deservedly took the lead on 20th minute through Sofiane Feghouli.

They, however, missed the chance to make it 2-0 when Baghdad Bounedjah watched his spot kick bounce off the crossbar.

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The Ivorians, reeling under pressure and with elimination staring at them, stepped up their game after the recess and were rewarded with a deserved equaliser through a terrific strike from Jonathan Kodjia.

Both sides came close to finding the winner but heroic saves by their goalkeepers kept the scoreline at 1-1 to push the game into extra time which failed to provide any more goals.

Not forgiving himself for missing the penalty earlier, Bounedjah allowed his emotion to affect his play, forcing Coach Djamel Belmadi to replace him with Islam Slimani in the 78th minute.

Even on the bench, Bounedjah could not hold back his tears and had to be consoled by teammates as he watched his opponents convert all their kicks.

Then Bony missed his kick followed by his teammate Mohammed Youcef Belaili who also missed. However, Bounedjah was saved from his misery when Ivorian Die also missed his kick to hand the Desert Foxes a sweet revenge.

The Algerians march into the semi-finals on Sunday to face three-time champions Super Eagles of Nigeria who reached the penultimate round after beating South Africa 2-1 in an uncompromising game last Wednesday.