LUANDA, January 25 – Algeria and Ghana are one step away from the Africa Cup of Nations final after stunning favourites Ivory Coast and hosts Angola respectively on Sunday.Ivory Coast were sent packing by a 3-2 extra time loss to fellow World Cup qualifers Algeria in the evening’s second quarter-final up in the northern province of Cabinda.
Algeria’s reward could be a date with bitter rivals Egypt, in what would be a repeat of their fractious World Cup play-off in November, if the defending champions see off Cameroon in Benguela on Monday.
The Desert Foxes fell 2-1 behind on 89 minutes to a brilliant Abdulkader Keita goal only for Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra to level in stoppage time and unmarked substitute Hamer Bouazza headed a 92nd-minute far-post winner.
Drama continued to the end with television replays suggesting a late shot from Ivorian defender Kolo Toure that found the net was wrongly judged offside by an assistant referee.
Didier Drogba’s Elephants had raced into a fourth minute lead when Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou scored after a goalmouth scramble with Germany-based Karim Matmour levelling on 40 minutes.
Algeria looked to be heading home early after opening their Cup campaign with a poor 3-0 loss to Malawi, but a win over Mali and a goalless draw against Angola put them into the last eight, and now they have the final in their sights.
"This victory is for Algeria, some people won’t be able to speak now, we’ve silenced our critics and proved that we are worthy World Cup finalists," said 27-year-old Bougherra.
Earlier, in Sunday’s first quarter-final, Angola crashed out, losing 1-0 to another World Cup-bound team, Ghana, to end their dreams of winning the title on home soil.
Four-time winners Ghana, seeking their fifth continental crown after a yawning 28-year drought, will face the winner of Monday’s quarter-final in Lubango between surprise packets Zambia and Nigeria.
Both semi-finals are scheduled for Thursday as the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations reaches its climax.
A minute’s silence preceded Angola’s game, held in memory of the victims of the Haiti earthquake and for the father of Angola coach Manuel jose, who died on Sunday morning in Portugal.
Angola welcomed back their three-goal hero Flavio but it was Ghana, missing a raft of top players, who shot into a 16th minute lead thanks to Asamoah Gyan.
Hard as Angola tried they were unable to cancel that out, although former Manchester United and Hull striker Manucho certainly had his chances.
Ghana’s Serbian coach Milovan Rajevic said: "Of course we are missing players like (Michael) Essien, (Stephen) Appiah and Anthony Annan. We have had to call up a lot of new players but what I have here is a team with a very competitive spirit and a competitive style of play.
"There is an excellent atmosphere in our team which is very important."
"I have to leave for Portugal now to attend the funeral of my father," Jose told a hushed post-match press conference.
"But I am leaving proud to be coach of this team. They finish in this competition with their heads held high.
"Ghana took their first chance to score and we did everything we could to get a goal ourselves.
"We had a couple of chances but we didn’t have the luck, they (Ghana) did."