BATA, Equatorial Guinea _ Guinea beat out Mali for the right to advance to the knockout round in the Africa Cup of Nations tournament Thursday, after organizers held a controversial tie-breaker lottery.

Guinea’s head coach Dussuyer reacts during their 2015 African Cup of Nations Group D soccer match against Ivory Coast in Malabo. (REUTERS)

After three qualifying matches for Group D, only Cote D’Ivoire emerged as a clear winner, with 5 points to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament.

Guinea and Mali, however, wrapped up their qualifying efforts with a 1-1 tie on Wednesday, making them equal second-place finishers in the group,with identical point rankings.

Tournament organizers then drew lots on Thursday to determine which team would advance. Guinea won that right.

But several members of the AFCON organizing committee said there was deep unhappiness and disagreement about whether drawing lots was the best way to proceed. One member, who asked not to be named since he was not authorized to share internal discussions, said world football governing body FIFA had pushed the tournament to instead decide the game by the traditional method: overtime and then a penalty shoot-out.

“We had a number of meetings before the matches and most of us agreed that we should decide the outcome on the field but not at the able but the executive (committee) would not agree,” the member told VOA.

Officials from the Confederation of African Football refused to comment immediately on the controversy, but scheduled a news conference Friday.

Officials at FIFA did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The two team’s coaches also criticized the decision, telling the BBC it was unfair​.

“Mali do not deserve to be eliminated in this way, just as we do not,” Guinea coach Michel Dussuyer was quoted as saying.

Guinea plays Ghana on Sunday.