Costly Eto'o mistake sends Ivorians through

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The Independent Online

Tomorrow's first semi-final in the African Nations' Cup will be another tense, west African affair but Nigeria's game against Ivory Coast will do well to equal, let alone better, the drama involved in the progress of both teams.

Both Saturday's quarter-finals involved lengthy penalty shoot-outs. The games between Nigeria and Tunisia, then the Ivorians against Cameroon, produced44 spot-kicks, which also includes one missed by the north Africans in normal play.

But although Nigeria's win over the 2004 winners produced the better quality football, its shoot-out could not compare with the one later that night in Cairo's Military Stadium, which ultimately saw the Ivorians, captained by Chelsea's Didier Drogba, prevail 12-11.

If Drogba and his team-mates had held on to their lead for slightly longer than two minutes then they might have avoided the shoot-out altogether.

However, a below-par performance by both sides led to extra time. Almost immediately, the substitute Bakari Kone rolled in the loose ball after Arsenal's reserve right-back Emmanuel Eboué had seen his 35-yard shot rebound off the crossbar. Chelsea midfielder Geremi responded with an effort of his own that hit the goal frame before his compatriot, the substitute Albert Meyong equalised.

That set up a penalty session which, at first, saw only one player miss - Said Alioum, of Cameroon - but he was allowed to retake his effort because the Ivorian goalkeeper had moved off his line.

Every player, with the goalkeepers also producing fine efforts, converted their penalties, which meant that Samuel Eto'o stepped up to take Cameroon's 12th. The Barcelona striker ended up chipping his shot over the crossbar. Drogba sealed the victory with his penalty.

Nigeria, without their injured captain, Jay Jay Okocha, squeezed past the holders, Tunisia, in Port Said. Nigeria took the lead but Tunisia missed a penalty before equalising.

Extra time saw no change and Nigeria then missed two of their first five spot-kicks. However, Tunisia did the same and when the game went into sudden death, Nigeria's goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama pulled off another fine save to keep alive Nigeria's hopes of a first African Nations' Cup title since 1994.

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