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Feb 4, 2012

Ivory Coast and Zambia reach semis

Didier Drogba scored twice after missing a penalty and Yaya Toure put the seal on Ivory Coast's quarter-final victory over co-hosts Equatorial Guinea at the African Nations Cup.

The Premier League pair did the damage in Malabo as the tournament favourites marched through to a semi-final meeting with Gabon or Mali follwoing a 3-0 victory at the Nuevo Estadio de Malabo.

Ivory Coast were back to full strength after resting a host of stars for their final group game, and that added up to danger for Equatorial Guinea, who had Laurence Doe back from suspension.

After a slow start, Ivory Coast began to step up the pace of their play midway through the first half, and Gervinho, Toure and Max Gradel threatened to open the scoring before Didier Zokora was brought down to bring about a penalty.

Goalkeeper Danilo kept out the Chelsea striker's spot-kick, but could not prevent him firing the Ivorians ahead in the 36th minute after a defensive mix-up.

A thrilling run from Gervinho midway through the second half saw the Arsenal forward wind his way into a threatening position but he lost control at the critical moment, when he should have been firing the ball past Danilo.

It did not matter because Ivory Coast doubled their lead after 70 minutes when Drogba headed in a fine second goal from Toure's free-kick.

With the Manchester City midfielder pulling the strings in midfield and Drogba a serious menace to any defence in this competition, it is little wonder many have tipped Ivory Coast from before the tournament.

Toure showed his pedigree again from a set-piece with eight minutes remaining when he curled home a fine strike to make absolutely certain of victory.

Zambia booked their place in the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup for the first time in 16 years after a comfortable 3-0 win over ten-man Sudan.

Zambia were hardly troubled after Stophira Sunzu's 15th-minute opener and second-half goals from skipper Christopher Katongo and James Chamanga ensured their progress.

Sudan's hopes were effectively ended with the 64th-minute dismissal of Saifeldin Ali as he gave away a penalty which Katongo had initially seen saved before driving in the rebound.

It meant Herve Renard's side moved a step closer to a dream final in Libreville, Gabon, next week.

At present the city is most associated in Zambia with one of the country's most tragic events, when a plane carrying the Zambian national side refuelled there before crashing into the Atlantic Ocean in 1993, killing all 30 people on board.

A minute's silence was observed before Saturday's match in Bata for the victims of this week's stadium riot in Egypt.

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