Ivory Coast’s journey from fortunate survivors to eventual winners at the 2023 TotalEnergies CAF African Cup of Nations was truly a fairy tale, as they were crowned champions on Sunday.
The Ivorians, who nearly lost their footing early in the tournament and missed out on making it to the round of 16, were the only team whose crown fit them the best.
There is no better way to commemorate your triumph over fierce rivals than with your ardent “orange-colored” supporters here at home.In group A with Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau was the host country of this year’s tournament, Ivory Coast.
After defeating Guinea-Bissau 2-0, the Ivorians got off to a strong start.The hosts then lost 1-0 to the Nigerian Super Eagles and 4-0 to Equatorial Guinea, their worst-ever opponent, in the group stage, suffering their two biggest home losses.
But when team coach Jean-Louis Gasset was let go after the team lost for the second time in a row, the Ivorian Football Association did not show any signs of weakness.The Ivorains, with three points, were the best loser and advanced to the round of 16.
The team’s manager was named Emerse Fae, a former player and assistant to Gasset.
From this point on, the team was overcome with victory and the desire to win the competition, on which its government and ardent supporters had expended a great deal of money.
They most likely believed that such resources could not go in the bins.In the round of 16, after a 1-1 draw at full time due to a late penalty kick equaliser by Franck Kessie, Fae led The Elephants to an incredible, unexpected 5-4 penalty shootout victory over Senegal, the defending champions.
For the home country, which had lost two crucial games in the tournament straight, the victory was huge.Ivory Coast proceeded to secure another victory in the quarterfinals, continuing with the same determination.
After trailing 2-1, Ivory Coast overcame Mali to secure their spot in the semi-finals by holding onto hope and holding on until extra time, when Oumar Diakite scored a winning right-footed shot from close range.
For a nation that had not won an AFCON since 2015, Fae kept the group driven and excited about winning.
The team’s best chance to advance to the tournament finals came from Ivorian striker Sebastien Haller, 29, who scored the game’s lone goal against DR Congo.
Despite the fact that over 57,000 people were expected to attend the Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan on Sunday, the Ivorians were focused on exacting their long-overdue retribution against Nigeria, who had defeated them in the group stage.
There were a total of 23 shot attempts made by both teams during this intense game.
Much of the ball was kept to themselves by the Ivorian team, but captain William Troost-Ekong’s powerful header seven minutes before halftime gave the Super Eagles the lead.Even as the Ivorians clung to their faith, the supporters from Nigeria cheered with delight.
As with Troost-Ekong, Kessie levelled the score in the 62nd minute by powering the ball into the Nigerian goal.Nine minutes remained in the full-time play, and Haller scored the goal with a simple touch after Stanley Nwabali was beaten.
As the first host nation to win the competition since Egypt in 2006, the Ivorians secured their third AFCON championship to tie Nigeria.”All our games were difficult,” said Fae, who turned forty the day he took over as coach.
We were constantly falling behind, and we had to use every ounce of energy we had, both mentally and physically.When we were unsure of how to leave our group, I assumed command.
Our birthday was peculiar, but happily we were given another chance, which we took.
“There are no words to adequately convey how happy I am. It is massive. Fae, who was a member of the team that Egypt defeated in the 2006 championship, continued, “As a player, I dreamed of winning the AFCON and did not manage it.”