DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) – Favourites Ivory Coast step back into the African Nations Cup spotlight on Sunday, spoilt for choice as they meet Nigeria in the quarter-finals in Rustenburg.
Outsiders Burkina Faso and Togo also meet in the last eight in Nelspruit on Sunday, seeking to continue their surprise run at the tournament in South Africa.
The decision on whether to start Didier Drogba is eagerly awaited as the Ivory Coast proved in the group stage that they could do without a player who previously had a talismanic influence on the team.
Drogba was dropped for their second group game, which produced Ivory Coast’s most convincing performance and secured qualification. Coach Sabri Lamouchi has hinted he may go back to that selection for the game at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.
Traditionally, a meeting with Nigeria would be a heavyweight clash but the odds are firmly with the impressive looking Ivorians after the stuttering form of the Nigerians, who needed two late penalties to book their progress from the group phase.
Unlike Drogba’s tenuous hold on his starting spot, fellow striker Emmanuel Adebayor has been the catalyst for Togo reaching the quarter-finals for the first time and will be key to their hopes again versus Burkina Faso.
The finishing ability of the tall Tottenham Hotspur forward, who just weeks ago was not sure if he would be competing at the finals, is Togo’s best chance of finding the net.
The Burkinabe eliminated defending champions Zambia in a show of surprising strength but have since lost their top scorer Alain Traore to injury.
Sunday’s games will complete the semi-final lineup after home hopes were dashed by South Africa’s penalty shootout loss to Mali in Durban after Ghana ended the fairytale run of the Cape Verde Islands in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)
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