By AVI CREDITOR
High drama captivated the final day of group play at the African Cup of Nations in Angola.
Group D concluded the group stage Thursday afternoon, with Gabon entering the day leading the group and playing against last-place Zambia.
But Cameroon's 2-2 draw with Tunisia combined with Zambia's 2-1 stunner over Gabon left all except Tunisia level on head-to-head and goal difference tiebreakers. The next step, goals scored, pushed Zambia and Cameroon through, respectively, and left Gabon in shock.
Group A saw host Angola and U.S. World Cup opponent Algeria get through to the quarterfinals, but not without controversy.
Algeria, which only scored one goal in three matches – coming in a 1-0 win over Mali – drew 0-0 with Angola in the final game of group play, which meant that both teams clinched spots in the quarters.
Mali lodged a complaint, alleging that both teams systematically drew and didn't play out the game. Had Algeria lost, Mali would have been through. Even though Mali had a better goal differential than Algeria and both teams finished with 1-1-1 records, tournament rules stipulate that head-to-head record is the first tiebreaker.
Favorites Ivory Coast and Ghana advanced from Group B, where teams only played two games because of Togo's withdrawal after the tragic attack on its team prior to the tournament. Burkina Faso managed a draw with the Ivory Coast, but the Elephants took down Ghana 3-1 in the first game last Friday to secure the top spot.
Cup holders Egypt, the only team to win all of its group-stage matches, and Nigeria emerged from Group C, leaving Benin and Mozambique behind.
The knockout stage begins Sunday, with Angola facing Ghana and the Ivory Coast squaring off with Algeria.
Egypt takes on Cameroon, and Nigeria, who will be without Joseph Yobo (hamstring injury), meets Zambia on Monday to book the final two spots in the semifinals.
The winners of Angola/Ghana and Nigeria/Zambia meet in one semifinal and the winners of Ivory Coast/Algeria and Egypt/Cameroon meet in the other.
Who do you want to win the tournament? Dreaming of an Ivory Coast-Ghana final? Can Egypt win the cup for a third consecutive time? Does Zambia's run remind you of a recent U.S. performance in the group stage of the Confederations Cup? Happy to get a look at some of these teams before the World Cup?
Share your thoughts below.