CAN 2024: the nightmare evening of Ivory Coast, on the verge of elimination

A shipwreck, a disaster, a humiliation

CAN 2024: the nightmare evening of Ivory Coast, on the verge of elimination

A shipwreck, a disaster, a humiliation. In front of its public, Ivory Coast was corrected by Equatorial Guinea (4-0), Monday January 22 in Abidjan, for its last group match in the African Cup of Nations (CAN). This scathing defeat risks depriving the host country of the round of 16 of “its” competition. He would then relive the nightmare of the last CAN that he organized, forty years ago.

It is not yet completely lost for the Elephants, who still have small chances of continuing their journey. The Ivorians, currently third in Group A with three points, must hope to finish among the four best third-placed teams, which seems unlikely given their negative goal difference (-3). They must wait until Wednesday, and the end of the group matches, to decide on their fate.

Many supporters did not hide their disillusionment. “I am extremely disappointed,” laments Yann Akoun, one of the spectators who took their seats at the Alassane-Ouattara stadium in Ebimpé. We wanted to be proud but tonight, we are ashamed. This CAN has great infrastructure and there is a really great atmosphere. But our team is not up to the task. » “This defeat is unforgivable,” says Armel Sialou, his orange jersey on his shoulders. Many point the finger at the tactical choices of Jean-Louis Gasset, the French coach of the Ivorians who, at the age of 70, was making his debut at the head of an African team.

Scalded

On the match sheet, the Monpellier player made four changes in his starting lineup compared to the previous match, notably giving Oumar Diakité a chance on the right. “But it’s fake coaching! », protests Youssouf Dosso. “Our team deserves better than this sad spectacle,” regrets Odile Kouao. This coach is not in tune with our realities. »

Scuffles broke out outside the stadium as soon as the final whistle blew. Advertising panels bearing the likenesses of the players were vandalized and several buses were stoned. In downtown Abidjan, supporters also headed to the headquarters of the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF) in the Treichville district and to the Maison Palmier, a luxury hotel in the Cocody district, where they are staying the players. Around 8 p.m., the neighborhood was cordoned off by the police.

Ivory Coast has reason to regret. She often dominated but lacked inspiration in midfield and realism in attack. Even though they crushed the first period, it was Equatorial Guinea, leading the group with 7 points, who opened the scoring with one of their only forays into the opposing camp. The second half was a festival of occasions for the Elephants. But after a second goal disallowed for offside, the Ivorians were subjected to the formidable efficiency of the Equatorial Guineans.

Everything started well for the host country. During the opening match, Saturday January 13, the Elephants opened the scoring in the 4th minute of play against Guinea-Bissau. After a second goal, the Ivorian people saw them as overpowering, perhaps even invincible. But this victory was a sham.

Thursday January 18 against Nigeria, the Elephants trampled their football. These pachyderms had neither breath nor inspiration. In front of 50,000 overwhelmed supporters, they lost (1-0). Jean-Louis Gasset then deplored that Nigeria “refused the game” and recognized that his players had “not given the impression of being able to compete physically”. The match against Equatorial Guinea confirmed this to him.

With amer

Elimination at this level of the competition would be both a sporting and political failure. The government bet on this event: 1.37 billion euros was invested to build or renovate six stadiums, build bridges, roads, hotels, “CAN cities”… Appointed in October, just three months before launch of the competition, the Prime Minister, Robert Beugré Mambé, was entrusted with the mission of organizing "the most beautiful CAN in history", according to President Alassane Ouattara. The results are bitter. “We didn’t have the team we needed,” laments Amadou Koné, minister of transport and mayor of Bouaké, one of the CAN host cities. Very few people saw this selection taking the cup. But we thought that with popular fervor, she would have had support allowing her to transcend herself. “We could have won 5-0,” says a close friend of President Alassane Ouattara. But that’s life… Discouragement is not Ivorian. »

The 34th African Cup of Nations, distinguished by the game it offers (there has been no 0-0 so far) and almost impeccable in terms of organization, is not finished . But after this “nightmare match”, as Jean-Louis Gasset repeated, she might no longer be quite the same. If the host country's team is eliminated, the tournament risks losing some of its magic and its sweet orange flavor.