Ivory Coast hoping to feed off late rally
RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) -Ivory Coast players say their late rally to draw with Algeria in the group stage will boost the team's confidence heading into a difficult quarterfinal against Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations.
The tournament favorites didn't play well against already eliminated Algeria in its last group match on Wednesday but found a way to escape with a 2-2 draw after two late goals.
Team captain Didier Drogba scored his first goal of the tournament to start the rally for Ivory Coast, which is seeking its first title in more than 20 years.
Drogba said the team showed against Algeria that it has the commitment and the resilience needed to make further progress at the tournament.
"We managed to equalize after being down, we proved that we have the mental strength, just like in the first match against Togo,'' Drogba said.
Ivory Coast also struggled in the opener against Togo but won the match thanks to a last-minute goal.
"Hopefully we will learn from our mistakes and be ready for the rest of the tournament,'' the new Galatasaray striker said. "It will be a great game against Nigeria, we need to make sure we prepare well so we can keep advancing and reach as far as possible.''
The quarterfinal against Nigeria will be played on Sunday in Rustenburg.
Ivory Coast Coach Sabri Lamouchi said he was happy to see the players react well to adversity against Algeria.
"I appreciate the fact that my players fought until the end,'' he said. "They refused to lose. I have to congratulate them for having this spirit.''
Ivory Coast finished top of Group D with seven points, three more than Togo and Tunisia. Algeria was last with one point. Togo also advanced from the group because it had a better goal difference compared to Tunisia.
The Ivorians had already secured first place ahead of the match against Algeria but players said a defeat would have raised doubts about the team's chances for the rest of the tournament.
"This result was very important for us, especially for the next game. We can't lose the next one and I think that now we will make sure that we prepare well,'' said Bony Wilfried, who scored the 80th-minute equalizer for Ivory Coast on Wednesday.
Ivory Coast was runner-up to Zambia last year. It hasn't won the African title since 1992.
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