Africa's top-ranked team, Côte d'Ivoire, missed out on the semi-finals of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations when they were beaten 2-1 by Nigeria in Phokeng outside Rustenburg on Sunday. Burkina Faso later completed the semi-final line-up with a 1-0 defeat of Togo after extra time in Nelspruit.
Nigeria will next face Mali in the semi-finals in Durban on Wednesday, while Burkina Faso and Ghana will go at it in Nelspruit on the same day. The third and fourth place playoff takes place in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, with Johannesburg's National Stadium the venue for the final on Sunday.
Stephen Keshi, Nigeria's coach, praised his team after its upset of Côte d'Ivoire, saying: "I know the mentality of my players, their level of concentration, and I knew they could do it. My players were disciplined. Nobody gave us a chance, but we showed character."
His opposite number Sabri Lamouchi admitted the loss amounted to a missed opportunity for the Elephants. "We had only one goal and that was to win the Africa Cup of Nations. For some of us, it might be a last chance. For me, it is my first Africa Cup of Nations and I had the same objective," he said.
"We did our best, but could not succeed. It's an obvious disappointment and you can imagine the state of the players."
Nigeria's Victor Moses gave Boubacar Barry an uncomfortable moment early in the match with a stinging drive that the goalkeeper parried. Fortunately for him, it fell to an Ivorian defender and the ball was cleared.
Brown Ideye set up Emmanuel Emenike with a very good opportunity after he picked up a loose ball and drew the last two defenders before passing. Emenike's shot, however, was poor and passed high over the Côte d'Ivoire goal.
Didier Drogba showed good skill to chest down a ball and shoot despite the attention of three defenders. His shot was just off target to goalkeeper Victor Enyeama's left.
Two minutes from the break, Nigeria hit the front from a free kick. Emenike blasted a shot from range straight at the keeper, but Barry made a real hash of his attempted save, swatting fresh air as the ball passed between his hands. Barry has an excellent record in the Africa Cup of Nations, but he badly blotted his book with the boo-boo.
Only five minutes into the second half, the Ivorians drew level. Drogba won a free kick just outside the box on the left and then delivered a pacy cross to the back post where an unmarked Cheik Tioté headed the ball past Enyeama.
Ideye was denied by Barry from a corner when he powered a header downwards from close range. After his initial block, Barry dived to the ground and grabbed the ball at the feet of a couple of Super Eagles and the scores remained level.
Yaya Toure then drew a super save out of Enyeama after he unleashed a vicious shot from just inside the box.
The outcome of the match was decided 13 minutes from time and it came from a worthy winner. After picking up the ball just inside the Super Eagles' half, Sunday Mba injected pace into Nigeria's attack down the left of the field before cutting inside. He fired. The ball took a slight deflection off a defender and looped over Barry, giving Nigeria a 2-1 lead.
Seeking an equaliser, Côte d'Ivoire's Lacina Traoré received a ball to his feet, mere metres from the Nigerian goal in the last five minutes, but his first touch let him down and a Nigerian defender toe-poked the ball behind for a corner.
After Burkina Faso qualified for the semi-finals, only the second time they had achieved the feat (the previous time was when they hosted the tournament in 1998), coach Paul Put was thrilled with his charges. "Congratulations to my players," he said. "All l asked of them was to make it to the semi-final and l am happy because they have fulfilled my wish.
"During the extra time, l was worried about our prospects, but with confidence and commitment we managed to get something extra and we scored the goal.
"Looking ahead, we will go into the semi-final with confidence and Mbombela is our home, so everything is possible. We have a lot of supporters here in Nelspruit and we are pleased to be here."
'A well-organised side'
Didier Six, Togo's coach, commented: "At this level of competition, all remaining teams are good and we came up against a well-organised side. We tried hard under difficult circumstances and we are disappointed we didn't win today.
"It is a disappointing result tonight, but we also have to recognise that by playing this match Togo reached the quarterfinal stage for the first time ever at Afcon, so we did our best."
Early in the game, Togo opened up an excellent chance for Floyd Ayité after some good approach play. He received the ball just outside the six-yard box and in a little space, but his first-time shot was mishit and easily dealt with by the goalkeeper.
Hooked off the line
Star striker Emmanuel Adebayor almost gave Togo the lead when he beat goalkeeper Daouda Diakité and a defender to a header early in the second half. Hwever, although Diakité might have been beaten, Saidou Panandetiguiri was covering and managed to hook the ball clear from off the goal line.
With regulation time running short, Jonathan Pitroipa missed getting the final touch to a nice low cross, which would have challenged the Togo goalie from close range.
A strong run by Adebayor saw him ride a couple of tackles before getting off a shot, but Diakité flew off his line to close down the angle and block the shot.
The Stallions responded by attacking down the left. Préjuce Nakoulma turned a defender, but then let the ball get a bit away from him and his shot was turned behind for a corner.
The winner came in extra time, in the 105th minute, from Pitroipa, who met a corner kick on the edge of the six-yard box with a strong header that struck the bottom of the crossbar on its way into the back of the Sparrow Hawks' net.
Togo sought a response, but Burkina Faso held out for the win.