AFCON 2023: Côte d’Ivoire’s redemption arc leads to final showdown


The journey of Côte d’Ivoire to the finals of the 34th edition of the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations is a tale of resilience, strategy, and redemption. From the brink of an early exit to securing a spot in the championship match, the host nation has captivated fans with their remarkable turnaround.

Starting their campaign with a solid win against Guinea Bissau, the Elephants showed promise, but the subsequent loss to Nigeria and a heavy defeat to Equatorial Guinea nearly dashed their hopes. The devastating 4-0 loss left their qualification hanging by a thread, dependent on other results.

It was a moment of anxious waiting until the group stages concluded, and Côte d’Ivoire miraculously qualified as one of the third-best placed teams, thanks to the outcome of the match between Morocco and Zambia.

The Elephants’ campaign took a decisive turn with the appointment of Emerse Faé as the head coach, replacing Jean-Louis Gasset. This change sparked a transformation in the team’s performance and mentality. Facing the defending champions, Senegal, in the round of 16, Côte d’Ivoire showcased their renewed spirit, advancing on penalties after a gripping 1-1 draw that lasted through extra time.

The quarter-finals presented another challenge as they faced Mali. Despite being a man down, the Elephants fought valiantly, clinching a 2-1 victory in extra time, thanks to goals from Simon Adingra and Oumar Diakite. This win not only secured their place in the semi-finals but also restored their confidence.

Their semi-final clash against D.R Congo was a testament to their regained form and character. A second-half goal from Sebastian Haller was enough to send the Elephants into the final, setting up a highly anticipated rematch with Nigeria. Having lost to Nigeria earlier in the tournament, Côte d’Ivoire now seeks not only revenge but also the chance to equal Nigeria’s record of TotalEnergies CAF AFCON trophies.

As they prepare for the final showdown, the story of Côte d’Ivoire’s journey from near despair to the brink of glory encapsulates the unpredictable nature of football and the enduring spirit of the Africa Cup of Nations. The host nation stands on the verge of completing a fairy-tale comeback, aiming to capture their first AFCON title on home soil.

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