Unsinkable Ivory Coast! After coming close to elimination during the group stage, the Elephants, through miracles and turnarounds, achieved the feat of winning their African Cup of Nations at home.
Return to this path of the cross until the final coronation of Côte d'Ivoire and its team of "returners", according to the expression of midfielder Franck Kessié.
Quiet start against Guinea-Bissau
The joy of the Ivorians after Seko Fofana's goal. © Franck Fife, AFP
Ivory Coast did not succumb to pressure when launching its African Cup of Nations. Opposed to a weak Guinea-Bissau in group A, the Elephants won without putting themselves in danger, but without shining either, thanks to goals from Seko Fofana and Jean-Philippe Krasso (2-0).
First shock and first hiccup against Nigeria
Ivory Coast midfielder Seko Fofana (left) and Nigerian striker Ademola Lookman during the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Group A football match between Ivory Coast and Nigeria at the Olympic Stadium Alassane-Ouattara in Ebimpé, Abidjan, January 18, 2024. © Franck Fife, AFP
In the most intense and tough match of the African Cup so far, it was Nigeria who emerged victorious in their duel against Ivory Coast (1-0). A narrow victory for the Super Eagles thanks to a penalty caused by Osimhen, converted by captain William Troost-Ekong. It's not yet a crisis but concern is rearing its ugly head.
The disaster in Equatorial Guinea
Yahia Fofana from Ivory Coast conceded 4 goals against Equatorial Guinea. © Issouf Sanogo, AFP
That day, everything seemed to be going against Jean-Louis Gasset's team. Yet dominating the game, the Elephants conceded a goal from Nsué on the first Equatoguinean opportunity. Twice, the referee refused them equalizing goals from Ibrahim Sangaré (45th + 1) and Jean-Philippe Krasso (67th). Then Equatorial Guinea completes the humiliation of the host country with three new goals. Final score: 4-0. The Ivorians' only hope of reaching the round of 16 is to be drafted among the best third-placed teams, and they are off to a bad start. Coach Jean-Louis Gasset presents his resignation the same evening.
Morocco and Emerse Faé as saviors
Emerse Faé during his first press conference as Ivory Coast coach in Yamoussoukro, January 28, 2024. © Kenzo Tribouillard, AFP
In the last match of the group stage, Morocco has the good taste to beat Zambia (1-0), which remains third in its group with two points, therefore behind Ivory Coast, which qualifies for the eighth through the tiny door. Moroccan flags then flourish in Abidjan...
Read alsoCAN 2024: Morocco qualifies Ivory Coast by beating Zambia
Internally, it’s a big upheaval. Emerse Faé arrives as interim coach in place of Jean-Louis Gasset. “We have come a long way. We had to recreate the collective dynamic,” explains the former deputy.
Round of 16: the feat against Senegal, reigning champion
The Ivory Coast team after its victory over Senegal in the round of 16 of CAN 2024. AFP - KENZO TRIBOUILLARD
Ivory Coast finds itself facing a very big piece in the round of 16: Senegal, reigning champion, the only team to have signed three victories during the group stage.
The match started very badly, Ivory Coast was defeated by Senegal, who opened the scoring from the start. But Ivory Coast, pushed by the 20,000 spectators in Yamoussoukro, raised its head and everything succeeded, including the refereeing... Franck Kessié equalized on the wire. Then, Ivory Coast won in the penalty shootout (1-1, tab 5-4). The beginning of the beautiful story.
Also read “We wanted to find the Elephants”: Emerse Faé satisfied with the Ivory Coast match
Quarter-finals: courage overthrows Mali
The joy of the Ivorians after their victory against Mali at CAN 2024. © Pierre René-Worms, FMM
Against Mali, Côte d'Ivoire saves a penalty, plays more than 75 minutes at 10 without it being felt and snatches its extension on the gong. Before eliminating the Eagles with another gong, just before the penalty shootout.
“When Mali missed the penalty, we all had that strength,” describes Oumar Diakité. "They scored the first goal, it was complicated for the lead, but with my entry, those of Simon Adingra (author of the equalizer in the 90th) and Sébastien Haller, we said to ourselves: 'It's possible to do something'.
Semi-final: confirmation against DR Congo
Striker Sébastien Haller scores with Ivory Coast against DR Congo PIERRE RENE-WORMS/FMM
The Elephants don't stop! No incredible scenario this time, nor turnaround, but Côte d'Ivoire masters DR Congo in the semi-final (1-0). Even deprived of four starters, the Elephants dominate and Sébastien Haller frees his team with an unacademic volley, which lobbies Mpasi.
You just had to live Sebastian Haller taking his team to the #TotalEnergiesAFCON2023 final.. 🤩🇨🇮@FIFCI_tweet | @HallerSeb pic.twitter.com/Py17o9q5Di
— CAF (@CAF_Online) February 8, 2024
Final: against Nigeria, suspense... But not too much
Haller and Seri after Ivory Coast's victory at CAN 2024. © Pierre René-Worms
Ivory Coast has broken the curse of the host country. The Elephants won their CAN at home, 18 years after Egypt, the last nation to have offered this gift to its fans. The Ivorians produced a match that reflected the image of their tournament. First led, they didn't give up and overthrew Nigeria (2-1), thanks to the inevitable Kessié and Haller.
Read also: Ivory Coast wins its CAN by overthrowing Nigeria in the final
The Elephants found the resources to win their coveted third star. Consecration of a beautiful journey full of emotions until the end.
Ivory Coast is African champion PIERRE RENE-WORMS/FMM
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