Ivory Coast on Monday were made to struggle by rank outsiders Namibia before winning 4-1 with some ruthless finishing to reach the round-of-16 at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Max Gradel and Serey Die scored either side of halftime for the Elephants, before Namibia, who missed two early chances to take a shock lead, pulled one back when Joslyn Kamatuka pounced on a mistake by goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohou.
Wilfried Zaha and Maxwel Cornet added two more goals in the final 10 minutes to give the scoreline a flattering look on another baking Cairo evening. Three of the goals were set up by AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.
Twice champions Ivory Coast finished second in Group D with six points from three games, while Namibia ended bottom without a point. Morocco topped the group with nine points after their 1-0 win over South Africa, who finished third with three.
Namibia were left waiting for a first ever win after competing in their third finals, while Ivory Coast could look forward to the knockout round.
“We have qualified directly from our group without having to worry about repechage so I’m satisfied,” Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara said.
His opposite number Ricardo Mannetti was angry with the way Namibia failed to make the most of their chances.
“Every mistake we made, the ball ended up in the back of the net,” Mannetti said. “Ivory Coast made more mistakes and we could only punish them once. That’s the difference between the two teams, it’s class and that’s why we lost 4-1. It’s just immaturity, we have to improve our quality at all levels.”
The game started slowly with a 6pm kickoff time, but it was Namibia who showed more initiative with Peter Shalulile missing two clear chances.
He headed wide from an unmarked position after Petrus Shitembi got clear down the right and chipped the ball into the middle, and then missed another chance by shooting straight at Gbohou’s legs.
Namibia were made to regret those misses when Gradel was sent clear by Kessie’s pass over the top of the defense and walloped an emphatic finish past Loydt Kazapua in the 38th minute.
Without ever looking convincing, Ivory Coast managed to add another in the 58th minute. Captain Die collected a pass and rifled in a low long-range shot which took a deflection on the way, leaving Kazapua stranded.
Namibia finally got their first goal of the tournament in the 71st minute after Gbohou sent a clearance straight to the feet of Kamatuka, who slipped past a defender and slotted the ball into the net.
However, Namibia were then twice caught out as Kessie put the ball through for Zaha to add a third goal in the 83rd minutes and provided another pass for Cornet to score five minutes later as Ivory Coast handed their opponents a harsh lesson.
In Group C, Algeria beat Tanzania 3-0 to finish top of the group, while Senegal also qualified for the round-of-16 with a 3-0 win over Kenya.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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