- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

MALABO, Equatorial Guinea (AP) - Even with all its star power, the Ivory Coast may have to depend on the luck of the draw to reach the quarterfinals at the African Cup of Nations.

All four teams in Group D have two points after 1-1 draws in every match.

On Wednesday, Yaya Toure and his Ivorian teammates will face Cameroon at Malabo Stadium, while Guinea takes on Mali in Mongomo.

“We fight like elephants to try to win this game,” said veteran Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure, referencing the national team’s nickname. “This game is going to be different, and I can’t wait. We need to give everything to prove we are a great team.”

More draws on Wednesday could mean that the quarterfinalists from the group will be drawn by lots. But if both matches produce a winner, then those two teams will go through.

The pre-tournament favorites from the group, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, will need a high-scoring draw in Malabo and another draw in Mongomo in order for both to advance.

“We go for a win,” Cameroon coach Volker Finke said on Tuesday. “But I know we have to work very hard against the ball. There are excellent individual players in the team of Ivory Coast.”

Besides Yaya Toure, who recently won his fourth African player of the year award, the Ivorians also have Wilfried Bony and veteran Salomon Kalou. But they will be missing Gervinho, the Roma forward who will be serving the second of his two-match suspension for getting a straight red card in the opening match.

In their first two matches in Malabo, the Ivorians had to come back to earn their draws. They got a late equalizer from Seydou Doumbia in the opening group match against Guinea, and Max Gradel scored an even later equalizer against Mali.

For Guinea, one of the three worst-affected countries in the Ebola outbreak, the results so far have been welcome good news.

“We’ve played two of the favorites of the competition and not lost,” Guinea captain Ibrahima Traore said after the draw against Cameroon. “We just have to continue the way we’re playing. We have what it takes to qualify.”

Guinea, however, will likely be playing without Florentin Pogba, the older brother of Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba. Florentin, a defender who plays for Saint-Etienne, injured his right hamstring against Cameroon.

But despite injuries and suspensions, Wednesday is the final chance for all four Group D teams to ensure advancement from their play on the field, rather than luck.

“It’s always very important to increase your pace step by step and not to start very quickly, and not be without energy after the second game,” Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard said. “We are in a good way.”


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