Ivory Coast storms into ACN semifinals

Ivory Coast storms into ACN semifinals|Ivory Coast storms into ACN semifinals
Ivory Coast’s captain Didier Drogba, left, clashes with Equatorial Guinea’s captain Juvenal Edjogo-Owono.
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Didier Drogba scored twice and Yaya Toure once to lead the Ivory Coast Elephants to a 3-0 quarterfinal victory over co-host Equatorial Guinea on Saturday to storm into the African Cup of Nations (ACN) semifinals.

The Elephants will match up against Mali – which overcame co-hosts Gabon also on Saturday – in Wednesday’s semifinal in Libreville, Equatorial Guinea.

The 33-year-old Drogba, who plays for Chelsea FC in the English Premier League and will be a free agent this summer, redeemed himself after missing an early penalty kick by registering the first goal of the game in the 36th minute with a hard right-footed shot for the 1-0 lead; he made it 2-0 in the 69th minute from a header off a Toure free kick. Toure, the current African Player of the Year, finished the scoring for the Ivory Coast in the 81st minute when he converted a second free kick after Gervinho was fouled.

“My teammates encouraged me and supported me a lot. I had to get back into the game and I owed them these goals. I am happy to have produced the goods for them and I am proud of my colleagues,” said Drogba, who is unsure if he will re-sign with Chelsea and is being courted by Chicago fire of MLS.

Mali played to a 1-1 draw in regulation, and after a goalless extra time period, Barcelona FC (Spain) defender Seydou Keita scored the fifth penalty in the shoot-out to see Mali through to the semifinals with a 5-4 advantage. The victory scene was set up when Gabon’s top forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s shot was saved by Malian goalkeeper Soumaila Diakite.

Ghana vs Zambia

In the other semifinal, Ghana, 2-1, winner over Tunisia, will meet Zambia, which defeated Sudan, 3-0. Ghana and Tunisia played to a 1-1 draw in regulation.

Captain John Mensah put Ghana ahead, 1-0, early in the game, then Tunisia equalized through Saber Khelifa. Andre Ayew, one of Ghana’s top performers at the last World Cup and a striker for Paris Saint Germaine in the French League One, scored the winner for Ghana in the 101st minute of overtime. Zambia got goals from Stoppila Sunzu, Christopher Katongo and James Chamanga on its way to Wednesday’s semifinal match-up against Ghana.

U.S. vs Canada

The U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) announced that its men’ national team will play Canada in an international friendly in Toronto on June 3, as its final warm-up game before hosting Antigua and Barbuda in its first CONCACAF Group A World Cup qualifying match on June 8. Canada will take on Cuba in a Group C match on the same day. The U.S.-Canada game will be the teams’ first in Canada since 1997 and would be a part of the centennial celebrations for the Canada Soccer Association.

The USSF also announced that it is negotiating to play international friendlies against Scotland on either May 26 or 27 and versus Brazil on either May 30 or 31, at Landover (MD) or Foxborough (MA).

Lindpere contract

The New York Red Bulls announced last week that the club has re-signed Norwegian midfielder and the club’s 2010 MVP, Joel Linpere, to a multi-year contract. Lindpere started all 34 regular season games, a franchise record.

“I am very happy to continue my career as a Red Bull,” Lindpere said. “I have enjoyed my time in MLS over the past two seasons. The support from the fans has been sensational and I hope to help bring a MLS Cup to New York this season.”

The Red Bulls also recently signed the 2009 MLS Best XI defender, Wilman Conde, from the Chicago Fire. The 29-year-old came to MLS from Colombian club, Millonarios.

“One of our offseason priorities was to solidify our defense and adding Wilman certainly does that,” said Red Bulls General Manager and Sporting Director Erik Soler. “During his stint in Major League Soccer, Wilman quickly established himself as one of the League’s top defenders and he will play an immediate role in our back line. He is strong, physical and experienced and he will be a tremendous addition to our club.”

Buddle Returns

Edson Buddle, who led the Los Angeles Galaxy in scoring in 2010 with 19 goals, returned to the team on Wednesday after a year with Ingolstadt in the German Second Division. In three years with the Galaxy (2007-10), Buddle scored 42 goals in 87 games. Buddle is the eighth-leading goal-scorer in MLS history with 90 and has three goals in 10 games for the U.S. national team,

“I am thrilled to be able to return to MLS and a club that has meant so much to me in my career,’’ Buddle said. “When I left for Germany last winter, I said that I hoped to be able to one day return to the Galaxy and help lead the club to an MLS Cup championship. That day is today, and I look forward to the challenges that now lie ahead.’’

“He has been an outstanding player for us in the past, and we look forward to him continuing that success for many years to come,’’ said Bruce Arena, the Galaxy’s general manager and head coach. The Galaxy reportedly are interested in Stephen Ireland, a player with Aston Villa of the English Premier League.

Ivory Coast’s captain Didier Drogba, right, and Gervinho celebrate Drogba’s second goal against Equatorial Guinea in their African Cup of Nations quarter-final match at Malabo Stadium in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012.
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

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