Premier League

Relive Ivory Coast Fairytale Journey

2023 AFCON Ivory Coast

One of the reasons football is the most famous game around the world is due to the fairytale stories every few years. When Mauritanian referee Dahane Beida blew the final whistle at the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpe, the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) Ivory Coast hosts had just scripted the latest fairytale of football.

It was an epic achievement for a nation that had earlier survived elimination by the skin of their teeth at the end of the group stage. However, that served as a great wake-up call for Emerse Faé’s men, who then went on an inspired run that ended with them winning their third AFCON crown.

So, how did Ivory Coast pull off a miraculous recovery to win it all?

Ivory Coast AFCON Group stage horror 

Ivory Coast came into the AFCON with high hopes as hosts of the tournament. They also boasted a strong squad, including Sébastien Haller, Simon Adingra, Ibrahim Sangare, and Evan Ndicka in their ranks.

The Elephants started their campaign in style, beating Guinea Bissau 2-0, with Seko Fofana and Jean Krasso getting on the scoresheet. However, they would lose their next game against Nigeria. Still, with a game in hand, the hosts are expected to go through going into the final match. Their opponent, Equatorial Guinea, though, had other ideas as they put four past Ivory Coast without reply.

This defeat relegated them to third place, and by the barest margins, they pipped Ghana to be ranked as the fourth-best third-placed team, earning them the final spot in the round of 16. In the end, it was their win in the opening game that allowed them to stay alive in the tournament.

A new lease of life 

Despite qualifying for the round of 16, one thing became clear to manager Fae: his team was not operating at the level of the best-performing teams in the tournament. So, going forward, he implemented a strategy based around a strong defence and fast counterattacks, especially using the width of the pitch through overloads created by wingers and full backs.

Fae’s new strategy would be tested to the limit in their first knockout game against heavy favourites Senegal. The game started in the worst way possible as the hosts fell behind in the fourth minute of the game.

Throughout the game, Senegal showed their dominance but failed to find the decisive second goal that would have put the game beyond Ivory Coast’s reach. And it came back to bite them when the Elephants equalised in the 86th minute through a Franck Kessie penalty.

The game went on to the…

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