Franck Kessie of Ivory Coast challenged by Chancel Mbemba of DR Congo during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Finals match between Ivory Coast and DR Congo at the Oyem Stadium in Gabon on 20 January 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Wednesday Jan 25, 2017. 15:00
As the defending champions, the Elephants of Ivory Coast came into this year's Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals as one of the favourites.
Without the likes of Kolo Toure, Yaya Toure and Gervinho, who were instrumental during 2015 AFCON title triumph, the Elephants were considered to be a work in progress.
But on paper, they still had a great squad which included Eric Bailly, Wilfried Zaha and experienced attackers Salomon Kalou and Wilfried Bony.
However, Ivory Coast started their title defence with a disappointing goalless draw against Togo, who were not overawed at facing the star-studded side, in a Group C encounter played in Oyem.
Ivory Coast head coach Michel Dussuyer, who had replaced accomplished tactician Herve Renard in 2015, admitted that his side under-performed against a country ranked 21 places below them in Africa.
Nevertheless, the top ranked African nation then switched their attention to their second Group C match which was against the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Elephants had thrashed the Leopards 3-1 in the 2015 AFCON semi-finals - so the defending champions were hoping for the same result when faced Florent Ibenge's men in Oyem.
But an improved DR Congo side forced the unconvincing Elephants to dig deep to earn a 2-2 draw in Oyem thanks to Serey Die's late deflected long-range goal.
Up next was a must-win game against Morocco, who are coached by none other than Renard. The Frenchman made it clear that he would put his emotions aside and guide his side past the Ivorians.
Only the winner of the highly anticipated encounter would advance to the next round. Renard, who also won the 2012 AFCON title with Zambia, masterminded a hard-fought 1-0 win over Ivory Coast in Oyem.
The result was the culmination of a poor tournament for the defending champions, who finished third in Group C, after they failed to win a single match in three games.
As for Dussuyer, his future is in the hands of the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF). His two-year deal with the federation ends later this year, but it has an option to extend for another two years.