- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

MALABO, Equatorial Guinea (AP) - Didier Drogba is gone, and he might soon be forgotten when it comes to Ivory Coast’s national soccer team.

Wilfried Bony, the newest exceptional striker from the country that also produced Yaya Toure, scored a pair of goals Sunday to put his team into the semifinals of the African Cup of Nations.

The Ivorians beat Algeria 3-1 at Malabo Stadium, and it was Bony who twice gave his team the lead with headers.

“I think the Ivory Coast team is very lucky,” Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard said. “He was the best scorer in England in 2014. I think when you just said that, you can explain everything.”

The soon-to-be Manchester City forward first headed in a cross from Max Gradel in the 26th minute after being left completely alone at the far post. Bony scored another in the 68th by nodding in a free kick taken by Toure, his new club teammate at City.

The Ivorians, who won their only African Cup title in 1992, will next face Congo on Wednesday in Bata. Four-time champion Ghana, which beat Guinea 3-0 in the other quarterfinal match, will play tournament host Equatorial Guinea in the semifinals on Thursday in Malabo.

With Drogba in the team, the Ivorians twice reached the African Cup final, but both times lost on penalties. The last time was in 2012, when Renard led Zambia to a surprising victory.

“If Didier Drogba is not there, it’s not because of us,” Renard said. “It’s because he decided to stop his international career.”

The Ivory Coast’s other goal came from Gervinho, the Roma forward who returned from a two-match suspension after getting a straight red card in the opening match.

Hilal Soudani scored Algeria’s goal in the 51st, beating goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo after taking a pass from Riyad Mahrez that trickled through a weak Ivory Coast defense.

In the earlier match, Christian Atsu scored two goals and Kwesi Appiah added the other to put Ghana into the African Cup semifinals for the fifth straight time.

Atsu, who plays in England for Everton, gave the Black Stars the lead in the fourth minute by scoring after a backheel pass from Andre Ayew. He added another in the 61st, whipping in a shot from the right side.

Appiah scored the second goal of the match in the 44th, controlling a horrible defensive mistake from Baissama Sankoh and beating Guinea goalkeeper Naby Yattara.

“For us, I think we had a winning mentality,” Atsu said. “We went for a win and we worked hard for it. That’s why we won the game. Not because they are a bad team. We went for a win. That’s all.”

Guinea finished the match with 10 men after Yattara was given a red card in injury time for a foul on Asamoah Gyan. Abdoulaye Cisse then played in goal for the final seconds.

Ghana came into the match as the favorite, and needed only a few minutes to take the lead. Appiah took the ball down the left side before passing to Ayew in the area, and the Marseille forward then used his heel to slide the ball to Atsu for the goal.

The match slowed for most of the next 40 minutes, with Guinea captain Ibrahima Traore doing his best to create chances for his team.

“We lost a goal almost from kickoff, which hurt our confidence, and then lost another goal just before break,” Guinea coach Michel Dussuyer said. “It makes things complicated against a team with the talent of Ghana.”

Guinea needed a touch of luck just to make it this far. The team finished tied with Mali after both teams drew 1-1 in all three Group D matches. But Guinea advanced after winning a drawing of lots on Thursday.

Just qualifying for the 2015 tournament was a surprise for many, however. Guinea is one of the three worst affected countries of the Ebola outbreak and the national team was forced to play its home qualifying matches outside its borders.

“We need to put things into perspective, Ghana are a great team,” Dussuyer said. “We go out with regrets in this match but must not forget the road we have come down before today.”

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