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04.02.2006 Sports News

Nigeria, Ivory Coast reach semis

By Reuters

CAIRO, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Nigeria and Ivory Coast reached the African Nations Cup semi-finals after marathon penalty shootouts against Tunisia and Cameroon respectively on Saturday.

Nigeria and Ivory Coast will now meet in the last four in Alexandria on Tuesday while hosts Egypt play Senegal.

Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama saved three penalties in their shootout and one during the match as the Super Eagles beat holders Tunisia 6-5 after a 1-1 draw.

Ivory Coast and Cameroon, renewing a rivalry from the World Cup qualifiers, took their shootout to 24 kicks before the Elephants won 12-11 following another 1-1 draw.

After each player had taken one kick, Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o, the tournament's leading scorer with five goals, stepped up for the second time and fired over the bar.

Didier Drogba then converted for the jubilant Elephants, who lost both World Cup qualifiers to Cameroon but still made it to Germany after the Indomitable Lions slipped up elsewhere.

"We proved we deserve to be in the World Cup," Ivory Coast coach Henri Michel told reporters to the backdrop of a mixed zone fight -- an almost daily occurrence at the tournament.

"Although Cameroon beat us twice in qualifying, we proved we are the better team in this game."

Cameroon coach Artur Jorge would not discuss his future.

"The future belongs to God," said the Portuguese coach, amid scenes of utter chaos.

SCRAPPY MATCH

Ivory Coast and Cameroon's scrappy match in Cairo briefly burst into life in the first five minutes of extra time.

Bakary Kone rifled home for Ivory Coast in the second minute after Emmanuel Eboe's shot crashed against the bar.

Cameroon hit back immediately, Geremi Fotso Njitap also hitting the bar before substitute Alberto Meyong Ze slotted home the equaliser.

The first 14 penalties were all converted before Ivory Coast goalkeeper Jean-Jacques Tizie saved Alioum Sadiou's effort for Cameroon. However, Tizie was judged to have moved and Alioum converted the re-take.

In an increasingly good-natured shootout during which rival players mingled and chatted in the centre circle both goalkeepers also scored before Eto'o finally missed.

In the other quarter-final, Nigeria went ahead in the fifth minute when 18-year-old striker Obinna Nsofor, making his first start, scored from just inside the area.

Tunisia, whose niggly approach, gamesmanship and play-acting has blighted a tournament that has otherwise been played in an excellent spirit, were awarded a controversial penalty nine minutes later.

Zied Jaziri tumbled over theatrically as replays suggested no contact was made and, although he celebrated the decision, Enyeama saved the penalty from Brazil-born full back Clayton.

Three minutes into the second-half Karim Hagui stole in behind the defence to head home the equaliser.

A bad day for the tournament's marksmen was complete when Brazilian-born Francileudo dos Santos, who has scored four goals for Tunisia, limped off, effectively ending their potency as an attacking force.

But despite creating chances, Nigeria could not find a winner.

They then missed two of their first three penalties as Tunisia keeper Ali Boumnijel saved from Joseph Yobo and Yusuf Ayila hit the bar.

But Enyeama saved successive kicks from Adel Chedli and Slim Benachour leaving the scores level at 2-2 after four kicks each.

The next seven penalties were all converted before Enyeama made his third save, this time from Riadh Bouazizi, to put the defending champions out of the tournament.

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