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“Special One”: Ivory Coast Coach Rejects Mourinho Comparison Ahead of AFCON Final vs Nigeria
- Ivory Coast coach Emerse Fae has addressed the 'Special One' tag
- He has been credited for transforming Ivory Coast's AFCON fortunes
- The 40-year-old has a chance of climaxing his efforts with a winner's medal in the final
Emerse Fae, the interim coach of Ivory Coast, has addressed the 'Special One' tag given to him for miraculously turning around the fortunes of the Elephants at the 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations.
Fae, then assistant coach to Jean Louis-Gasset, took over the Ivorian hot seat shortly after the AFCON hosts suffered their worst defeat on home soil, a 4-0 humbling against Equatorial Guinea.
The defeat placed the two-time African champions in a precarious position, but for a myriad of results, including but not limited to Morocco's one-nil win against Zambia, helped them secure a spot among the four best-placed third teams.
But the narrative has changed from near disaster to a fairytale finish, with Ivory Coast sealing a final berth after beating defending champions Senegal on penalties before seeing off Mali in extra time with a dramatic comeback win.
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Emerse's side then won only their second game across six games in 90 minutes with a Sebastien Haller strike in the semifinals to push them to their first final appearance since 2015
Overseeing this remarkable turnaround has birthed the moniker 'Special One' for the 40-year-old former midfielder.
Reacting to the nickname that resonates with former Real Madrid and Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, Fae was moderate about his contributions to the team's success rather deflecting the glory to the collective, as captured by Sports Brief.
"I'm not the special one. I said from day one that I had been fortunate enough to know the group for more than two years, so when we took over, we had the same time because we already knew the group.
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Emerse further downplayed his transformative role in turning Ivory Coast's situation around by turning the focus on his backroom staff.
"We tried to focus on building this team chemistry, especially since I haven't invented anything, and the most important thing is the group [technical team] making sure all of the players feel important and feel the cohesion in the squad.
"And the most important thing is that all the players feel equal. I don't think I'm the special one," he ended.
Emerse Fae calls AFCON final qualification "dream"
Sports Brief also reported that Emerse Fae described his team's achievement in booking a spot in the AFCON final as "like a dream".
The former OGC Nice midfielder guided the Elephants to their first final since 2015 after the tournament hosts beat the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 in Wednesday's semifinal encounter.
Should Fae beat Nigeria in the Grand Finale to lift the trophy, he will join Aliou Cisse as the second manager to have won the AFCON as coach but lost as a player.