A virtual reserve Ivory Coast side cruised to a 2-0 win over Angola on Monday in a lackluster Group B match at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Emmanuel Eboue and Wilfried Bony scored for the Elephants, who topped the final table with three wins, while Angola lost out to Sudan on goal-difference in the battle for second place.
Ivory Coast remain in the island city to tackle co-hosts Equatorial Guinea next Saturday, while Sudan face Zambia earlier the same day in Bata in the first quarter-final.
Ivory Coast coach Francois Zahoui, while relieved to see his side progress, said: “The real relief will be to win the title.”
“We’ll keep our feet on the ground. I’ll be happy when we have achieved our aim of bringing pleasure to the Ivorian people,” he said. “We want to make it to the end, otherwise a couple of wins doesn’t mean anything.”
Angola manager Jose “Lito” Vidigal said: “It was really difficult and we worked very hard to go through.”
“We had lots of problems to qualify for this Nations Cup, but I’d like to thank all our fans,” he said. “We were up against a very strong Ivory Coast side, who are going to go far in this tournament.”
Zahoui had hinted that he would rest some of his first choices — but leaving nine on the bench came as a surprise, with the only regulars in the starting lineup being centerbacks Kolo Toure and Souleymane Bamba. Toure captained the team in the absence of Didier Drogba.
Angola made two changes to the team held by Sudan, with goalkeeper Wilson replacing the suspended Carlos and Dede coming in for off-form striker Flavio.
The first half did little to excite another small crowd in the 15,000-seat Nuevo Estadio de Malabo apart from a goal on 33 minutes by former Arsenal defender Eboue.
After carelessly conceding possession in midfield, Angola were caught napping as a surging run from Bony took him into the penalty area and when Miguel failed to clear, Eboue tapped the ball in at the far post.
It was the first time in three outings that the Black Antelopes had fallen behind and with Sudan taking the lead in the same minute against Burkina Faso, the pressure was on.
Angola fell further behind on 64 minutes when a long pass into opposition territory by substitute Abdul Kader Keita led to a mix-up between centerback Massunguna and goalkeeper Wilson, providing a gift goal for Bony.
Massunguna panicked under pressure and headed the ball back over his advancing goalkeeper, leaving Bony to run in unopposed and tap the ball over the line.
Angola introduced Germany-born Nando Rafael as time ticked away and they finally came alive when a header by former Manchester United striker Manucho forced Daniel Yeboah to make a good save.