Final Before Final When Lions Clash with Elephants

Cameroon Cote d’Ivoire both know that victory will take them into the quarter-finals of the African Nations Cup in their final Group D match in Malabo on Wednesday.

Neither of the west African heavyweights have hit their straps yet in this competition and the hope will be that they can find the form that got them through qualifying.

It has been a difficult road for he Ivorians under new coach Herve Renard so far, mostly because they have lost established stars in Didier Drogba and Didier Zokora, among others, and those coming in to replace them will take time to reach their level.

That this is a transition period will be a handy excuse if they don’t make the Last 8, but in truth they still have enough quality through the side to suggest it should have been a near-formality.

A lot of the criticism of the team this tournament has centred around Yaya Toure, who has not displayed the sparkling form that saw him named African Footballer of the Year for the fourth time in a row earlier this month.

But Renard is quick to defend his star and says the blame rather lies with those around him.

“Cote d’Ivoire is not Manchester City. The potential of players is not the same,” Renard told reporters. “At City, there are players who can defend very well and create at the same time. With us it is different, so we asked him to do a different job.”

The Ivorians will again be without striker Gervinho, who is serving the second match of a two-game ban after being sent off in their opening 1-1 draw with Guinea.

Cameroon thumpednbspCote d’Ivoire 4-1 in the qualifiers, but any repeat of that freak result would be astounding.

They have been solid but unspectacular in this tournament, where they are looking to make up for the disappointment of the World Cup in Brazil which turned into a farce for the side.

Their form in the final too has been patchy, they have shown good things in periods of games without putting together the complete performance.

The permutations for the pool in which all four sides, including Mali and Guinea, are on two points are quite simple.

A win for any of the sides and they are through to the quarter-finals.

If there are two draws in the pool that end with the same scoreline then all four teams will still be in the running and progress will be decided by lot.

If there is one winner and the other match drawn, then the drawing of lots will be used as well to decide who finishes second.

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