By Victor Kanayo
The defending Champions are currently in lamentation after the host Cote d’ivoire rose high to come out winners of a box-to-box last 16 clash in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations 2023.
It was an intense encounter that saw Cote d’ivoire win 5-4 on penalties after extra time to advance to the quarter-final of the tournament, in front of a raucous home crowd at the Stade Charles Konan Banny in Yamoussoukro.
How The Elephants Roared To Victory
Senegal had made a blistering start and took the lead just 4 minutes in, following a superb cross from Sadio Mane which found Habib Diallo, who calmly chested the ball down before firing a rocket into the top corner.
They continuously had the better of the first half and despite several near misses, a Senegalese wall of Kalidou Koulibaly and Abdou Diallo repelled everything thrown at them. 0-1 at halftime.
However, the game turned on a pivotal 86th minute moment when Pepe burst into the box and was clumsily brought down by Edouard Mendy.
After VAR reviewed the incident, Franck Kessie coolly sent Mendy the wrong way from the spot to equalize and send the home crowd into ecstasy.
Extra Time Drama
In extra time, chances came and went for both sides but the scores remained level. In the shootout, each side netted their first 4 penalties.
But when Kalifa Coulibaly’s effort came off the upright, Kessie stepped up to smash home the winning kick, capping a remarkable turnaround for the hosts.
Grit Amidst Near Impossibility
The outcome of the knockout encounter revealed that after a disastrous group stage, Cote d’Ivoire showed tremendous resilience and spirit to dethrone Senegal, who will have to relinquish their title.
Few gave the Elephants hope coming into this last 16 clash against star-studded Senegal, and the result blows the tournament wide open.
From Historical Perspectives
So, the host have now reached the quarter-final of an AFCON edition for the 11th time in their history, with no team having played more quarter-finals in the competition as Ghana, Tunisia and Nigeria also have 11 each.
On the other hand, Senegal will not be playing in the last 8 of the tournament for the first time since 2015 when they were eliminated in the group stage.
And, this is the seventh consecutive edition in which the title holders have failed to reach the quarter-final of the Nations Cup, the last team to reach this stage of the competition being Egypt in 2010.
Cape Verde Battle For Semis Place
Earlier on Monday, Cape Verde defeated spirited Mauritius 1-0 at regulation time to book their last 16 spot.
The victory means they will face the Elephants next in search of a semi-final place in the competition.