AFCON 2023: How Ivory Coast Avoided Elimination to Set Up Final Against Nigeria

AFCON 2023: How Ivory Coast Avoided Elimination to Set Up Final Against Nigeria

Edwin Kiplagat
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
In this article:
CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo
Ivory Coast logo
Cote DIvoire
Ivory Coast
Sébastien Haller logo
Borussia Dortmund logoFIvory Coast logo
  • Ivory Coast are in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final
  • The hosts were nearly out early but somehow survived
  • The Elephants face Nigeria in the AFCON final on Sunday

Ivory Coast beat the Democratic Republic of Congo to reach the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday, February 7.

The two-time champions will face Nigeria in the final of the continental tournament, looking to lift the trophy in front of their fans.

Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, AFCON, Emerse Fae
Ivory Coast are seeking to win their third AFCON title when they face Nigeria in the final. Photo by Issouf Sanogo.
Source: Getty Images

Their journey to the final was far from smooth. They almost exited the tournament at the group stage, but a miracle saw them sneak into the knockout stage. So how did Ivory Coast reach the final after a dreadful start to the competition?

Ivory Coast's group stage

The Elephants opened the tournament with a comfortable 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau in front of tens of thousands of their fans. After that game, things started going downhill. A poor performance against Nigeria saw them lose 1-0, with William Troost-Ekong scoring a penalty.

In their last group-stage game, they were handed an embarrassing 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea. They received loud boos from the crowd, and it appeared their tournament was over. Coach, Jean-Louis Gasset, was fired and replaced by an inexperienced Emerse Fae.

Before the tournament kicked off, the Elephants were considered favourites alongside the likes of Senegal and Morocco, but instead, they had to wait a few days before their progression was confirmed.

The four best third-placed teams in the six groups progressed to the Round of 16, with Morocco's 1-0 win over Zambia seeing Ivory Coast through and leading to thousands of fans chanting for the Atlas Lions.

Ivory Coast vs Senegal: Round of 16

Many people predicted an easy win for reigning champions, Senegal, against Ivory Coast. In the first few minutes of the contest, it was clear the Lions of Teranga meant business. However, the 2023 AFCON scriptwriters had a plot twist in mind.

A late penalty from Franck Kessie saw the game end 1-1 after 90 minutes. Senegal failed to punish their opponents in extra time. In the penalty shootout, the hosts won 5-4 after Moussa Niakhate missed his penalty for the champs, per the BBC.

Kessie buried the winning penalty sending the nation into euphoria. This remains one of the upsets of the tournament.

Ivory Coast vs Mali: quarter-final

Ivory Coast's quarter-final clash against Mali epitomised their never-say-die attitude. Everything that could've gone wrong for the hosts, went wrong.

Defender, Odilon Kossounou was shown a red card in the first half. Nene Dorgeles then gave Mali the lead with 20 minutes left to leave the hosts reeling.

Ivory Coast's backs were up against the wall. Defeat was imminent. But their story was far from over.

Yahia Fofana saved Adama Noss Traore's penalty in the first half, too, after Kossounou fouled Lassine Sinayoko.

Brighton's Simon Adingra bagged the equaliser in the 90th minute to send the tie to extra time. Oumar Diakite's 122nd-minute winner sent the country into jubilation.

It was arguably the most dramatic match at the 2023 AFCON.

Ivory Coast vs DR Congo: semi-final

Their semi-final clash with DR Congo was more comfortable than their last eight match against Mali.

Sebastien Haller's 65th-minute strike was enough to send the hosts to the final, per CAF, with DR Congo barely threatening a confident Ivory Coast side.

The Elephants will be seeking to end the tournament on a high by winning it on Sunday.

Best AFCON finals in history

Sports Brief also previously reported on the best AFCON finals of all time ahead of the last round between Nigeria and Ivory Coast this weekend.

The 2021 AFCON final makes the list due to the showdown between Senegal's Mane and Egypt's Mohamed Salah, both with Liverpool at the time.

The 2012 AFCON final between Zambia and Ivory Coast is also unforgettable, while Nigeria versus Cameroon in 2000 is also a classic final game.

Edwin Kiplagat photo
Edwin Kiplagat
Edwin Kiplagat has five years of experience in journalism working as a Sports Editor at Africa Insight Communications and ESPN. Edwin Kiplagat is a Bachelor's Degree holder in journalism from the Multimedia University of Kenya.