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Curse of the champion strikes Ivory Coast

Associated Press logo Associated Press 24/01/2017 Gerald Imray

The curse of the defending champion struck Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations and Congo's squad put a player strike behind them to dance into the quarter-finals.

The titleholder and a team of big stars from European clubs, Ivory Coast didn't even make it past the group stage in their defence, crashing out without winning a game.

Ivory Coast needed to beat Morocco in the last round of matches in Group C on Tuesday but lost 1-0 to follow Algeria out of the African championship in Gabon - two big teams gone in 24 hours.

Instead, Congo topped the group with a 3-1 win over Togo in Port-Gentil, where the Congolese players danced in front of their fans for every one of their goals, and again at fulltime.

"We are going to keep going, you know," Congo midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu said.

"When we started this tournament no one would have bet on us. We're a surprise. We want to go to the final. It's going to be tough ... but we have quality players."

Congo and Morocco went through and their quarter-final opponents will be decided on Wednesday on the last day of the group stage.

They joined Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Senegal, Cameroon, and Ghana in the knockouts.

One more quarter-finalist out of Egypt and Mali will be decided on Wednesday.

Congo is most likely to play Ghana or Egypt in the quarter-finals, a game in which they might have been written off a few years ago. Not now.

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