January 30 – Hosts Ivory Coast put a disastrous group campaign behind them on Monday as they stunned holders Senegal 5-4 on penalties to book a surprise Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final against Mali or Burkina Faso.
The hosts put the humiliation of losing 4-0 to tiny Equatorial Guinea to one side and after sneaking into the last 16 as one of the third-placed sides are now gunning for glory.
The defeat to Equatorial Guinea in their final group game left them waiting three days before it was confirmed they had done enough to reach knockout stage during which time the Ivorian FA fired 70-year-old coach Jean-Louis Gasset and put his assistant Emerse Fae in charge.
Against Senegal they conceded in the fourth minute but held on until earning a late 1-1 draw with an 86th-minute penalty from Franck Kessie and then going on the win a nail-biting shootout.
“The last days were tough for us,” said Borussia Dortmund striker Sebastian Haller, whose ankle injury kept him off the pitch until he came on as a second-half substitute.
“We have opened the door and given ourselves a chance. We can forget now about what happened in the group stage. Now we must stay humble. There are no easy opponents in the tournament, and we are a long way from achieving anything yet.”
Midfielder Seko Fofana said it had been hard to see the reaction following their defeat to Equatorial Guinea. “It was difficult to see the people crying after that loss but we’ve made up for that now and so we’re all very happy.”
“We had a strategy in place and the changes came at the right time. The new coach worked very well,” he added of Fae, who has no previous experience as a senior coach.
Senegal had comfortably beaten the Gambia, Cameroon and Guinea to top Group D, and were the only section winners to progress having secured a maximum nine points.
But they became the seventh consecutive holders to fall victim to the AFCON curse – no side since Egypt in 2008 have been able to take a title defence beyond the round of 16.
“We made the match complicated for ourselves,” Senegal coach Aliou Cissé said. “Disappointed with the result for my players and for our people because we came to win this Africa Cup … But in victory as in defeat, you have to remain dignified, and I’m proud of my players.”
Elsewhere Ryan Mendes scored a late penalty for Cape Verde to make the quarterfinals after edging out surprise last-16 opponents Mauritania 1-0. The Blue Sharks, who also reached the quarterfinals in 2013, will next play Morocco or South Africa.
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