Led by multiple stars such as Kalidou Koulibaly, Sadio Mané, Édouard Mendy, Senegal reached the summit of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2021, and they embarked onto the 2023 AFCON with an aim to defend the inaugural title they won a couple of years ago. Nonetheless, the defending champions faced 2023 AFCON hosts Ivory Coast in the Round of 16, and the script did not go right for the defending champions this time arounf, as their opening goal was cancelled out with a late equaliser, before the two-time winners of the competitions knocked them out and put an end to their title defence campaign over the agonising penalty shootout.
Senegal Drew First Blood Against the Ivorians in the 2023 AFCON Round of 16
Senegal started their Africa Cup of Nation title defence campaign at 2023 AFCON in superb fashion, winning all three of their Group B matches against Gambia, Cameroon and Guinea, scoring eight goals and conceding only once in those games, whereas hosts Ivory Coast only managed to escape the group stage as one of the best third-ranked teams with only 3 points out of a possible 9.
It was the defending champions who carried their impressive momentum and broke first in this 2023 AFCON Round of 16 clash, earning the lead as early as the fourth minute. A throw-in found Mané, the forward who is now playing for Saudi Pro League’s Al-Nassr, around the edge of the left wing, before the ex-Southampton, Liverpool and Bayern Munich man delivered a cross towards the penalty box. The subsequent delivery found his strike partner Habib Diallo, who then controlled the ball and fired the half-volley into the back of the Ivory Coast net.
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Super Sub Kessié Leads Ivory Coast to 2023 AFCON Quarters with an Equaliser and the Winning Penalty
Senegal looked to have prevailed in this 2023 AFCON Last 16 encounter against Ivory Coast, but the hosts of the tournament had a different idea late in the second half. Former central midfielder for Atalanta BC, AC Milan as well as Barcelona man Franck Kessié came onto the pitch for Ibrahim Sangaré in the 73th minute, and the player’s impact was instant for his country in this do or die game.
The 27-year-old stepped up to take a penalty that was awarded due to a foul on another replacement Nicolas Pépé by Mendy, and the former found no problem beating his Al-Ahli teammate in his following spot kick despite Mendy’s accurate guess on the direction of the shot, meaning Kessié has made things all square again between Senegal and Ivory Coast. Both teams could not find another goal in the rest of the 90 minutes plus added time, and not even the extra time period could separate the two African nations in this 2023 AFCON Round of 16 fixture, leaving the cruel penalty shootout to decide their fate in the tournament.
Koulibaly, Pépé, Pape Matar Sarr and Christian Kouamé successfully converted their efforts in the first four spot kicks of the shootout, until Moussa Niakhaté missed his penalty. The Nottingham Forest centre-back did send Yahia Fofana to the wrong way, but his strike was met by the post, causing everyone at the Senegal camp in despair. Sébastien Haller, Bamba Dieng, Serge Aurier and Sadio Mané then found the back of the net in the next four penalties, leaving Kessié with the final spot kick. The Saudi Pro League player kept his cool again at the spot, hitting the ball to the top right corner to win the game for Ivory Coast in this 2023 AFCON Round of 16.
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Mali or Burkina Faso Await Ivory Coast in the 2023 AFCON Quarters
Haller, the Ivory Coast forward who plays for German Bundesliga 1 outfit Borussia Dortmund and the scorer of his country’s third penalty in the shootout last night, said this during the post-match conference after the Ivorians knocked out holders Senegal in the 2023 AFCON: “It’s very emotional, the last few days were tough for us. We have opened the door and given ourselves a chance. We can forget now about what happened in the group stages.”
After eliminating the Senegalese in the 2023 AFCON Round of 16 to reach the next round of the competition, Ivory Coast will have the winners between Mali or Burkina Faso as their opponents in the quarterfinals. Regardless of the identity of their enemies in the 2023 AFCON Quarterfinals, the two-time winners of the competition are likely the favourites to win the last 8 matchup and progress to the semifinal of the tournament.
Four teams booked their quarter-finals seats already. 🌟
— CAF (@CAF_Online) January 29, 2024