Namibia Hold Mali To Reach Last 16 For First Time

Namibia Hold Mali To Reach Last 16 For First Time

Namibia booked a first appearance in the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations by holding a Mali side who topped Group E by virtue of the point.

The draw puts Namibia, who came closest to scoring when Prins Tjiueza hit the post, through as one of the group stage's four best third-placed teams.

The Brave Warriors will take on Group D winners Angola in the first knockout round while Mali face Burkina Faso.

The result kept host nation Ivory Coast sweating over their progression hopes.

The Elephants, who finished third in Group A, are left relying on results in Group F later on Wednesday to determine whether they will qualify or face an embarrassing early exit.

Mali negotiated the group stage unbeaten, with South Africa's 0-0 draw with Tunisia in the group's other final game ensuring the Eagles claimed top spot.

Namibia, meanwhile, survived a late onslaught from the West Africans to emulate fellow minnows Mauritania's achievement of reaching the knockout stages for the first time.

Their game with neighbouring Angola will kick off the last 16 on Saturday in Bouake while Mali meet Burkina Faso in Korhogo on Tuesday (both matches 17:00 GMT).

Namibia had never won a game at an Afcon finals in nine attempts until they shocked Tunisia in their opening game in Ivory Coast but have now become the latest surprise package to reach the second round.

Collin Benjamin's side knew a draw would be enough to progress despite losing their second match heavily, 4-0 to South Africa, and they were happy to sit back for much of this encounter.

The one big chance they did create fell to Tjiueza who found space in the Mali box in the first half but saw his strike touched on to the upright by the fingertips of Eagles goalkeeper Djigui Diarra.

Mali, who had already qualified for the next stage and made six changes to their side, were fairly unadventurous for large spells but still created the majority of the game's best openings.

Fousseni Diabate stung the palms of Brave Warriors goalkeeper Lloyd Kazapua before the break and Lassine Sinayoko wasted a glaring chance when he headed Youssoufou Niakate's cross wide from six yards.

The Eagles seemed content with the point for much of the second half but pushed for a winner late on with winger Nene Dorgeles seemingly on a mission to eliminate the southern African underdogs.

He was twice thwarted by risky but brilliantly timed last-ditch challenges in the area and when Dorgeles did deliver an inviting cross for Ibrahim Sissoko, the Mali substitute somehow failed to make contact.

Kazapua pushed an Amadou Dante free-kick wide in the final scare, with Namibia keeping only their second-ever Afcon finals clean sheet as a tournament that had previously yielded no goalless draws produced two at the same time.

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