Home » AFCON 2023: Hosts hope hang as Nzalang Nacional stun Elephants

AFCON 2023: Hosts hope hang as Nzalang Nacional stun Elephants

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Host nation Cote d’Ivoire’s (Ivory Coast) presence at 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is hanging by a thread, as they lost a second successive Group A match at the tournament, going down 4-0 to group winners Equatorial Guinea in Abidjan.

The Ivorians must now wait to see if they will go through as one of the four best third-placed teams.

After defeat to Nigeria on Thursday, Les Éléphants needed a big response and they dominated the early territory, putting plenty of balls into the Central Africans box, but could not create a real chance until the 30th minute, when Christian Kouamé brought the ball down before Nicolas Pépé took control and evaded a challenge, but could not quite take the ball around goalkeeper Jesús Owono.

The hosts’ shyness in front of goal was punished on 42 minutes, when Carlos Akapo was allowed to drive into the area and play a low pass across to Emilio Nsue, who added to his hat-trick against Guinea-Bissau by rolling the ball into the net to give Equatorial Guinea the lead in front of a stunned crowd.

Ivory Coast thought they had drawn level on the stroke of HT. However, Ibrahim Sangaré was flagged offside when he tucked in a knockdown from Kouamé.

Flying out of the blocks after the restart, the West African side again thought they had equalised through Sangaré, but the Nottingham Forest man somehow blasted over from just three yards out.

As the match entered its final quarter, Jean Luis Gasset’s side were again denied an equaliser by Video Assistant Referee (VAR), after Jean-Philippe Krasso turned and finished neatly inside the box, only for replays to show he was offside.

To compound their misery, Equatorial Guinea then scored a second just minutes later, when Pablo Ganet curled a 25-yard free-kick into the top corner. With nothing to lose and their evening in tatters, the Ivory Coast got caught on the counter-attack as they threw bodies forward from the restart, allowing José Machín to pick out Nsue in the box to score his fifth of the tournament.

The Ivorians failed even to find a consolation against Juan Micha’s men, who kept up their record of reaching the knockout stage of every AFCON in which they have featured in style, grabbing a fourth through Jannick Buyla’s rebound.

Nigeria’s 1-0 win over Guinea-Bissau at least secured third place for Ivory Coast, but with three points and a minus three goal difference, Jean-Louis Gasset’s side may require a few miracles to progress.

Equatorial Guinea topped Group A with seven points ahead of Nigeria on superior goal difference as both automatically qualified for the Round of 16.

Host, Ivory Coast will wait to determine whether the team will qualify as one of the four best third placed finishers.


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