Jean Thierry Lazare of Cote dIvoire celebrates victory during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match between Mali and Ivory Coast held at Peace Stadium in Bouake, Cote DIvoire on 03 February 2024 ©Weam Mostafa/BackpagePix
Thursday Feb 08, 2024. 14:17
Ivory Coast interim coach Emerse Fae admitted their run to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final feels “like a dream” given the dire situation they were in two weeks ago.
The tournament hosts almost didn’t make it out of the group stages after a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium on January 22 left them on the brink of an early exit.
Jean-Louis Gasset was sacked as head coach two days later with the Elephants’ fate still undecided and they just scraped into the knockout stages on goal difference ahead of Ghana and Zambia.
Fae was handed the reins on a temporary basis and he guided the team past defending champions Senegal and Mali in extraordinary circumstances to book a date with the Leopards in the semi-finals on Wednesday.
Cote d’Ivoire returned to the scene of their disappointment against the National Thunder a fortnight earlier and managed to redeem themselves after Sebastien Haller’s 65th-minute goal saw off the Central Africans to keep their title hopes alive.
“We are happy, we’re really moved. It’s like a dream when you go back two weeks to the defeat here against Equatorial Guinea,” former Ivory Coast international Fae said.
“It was hard then to imagine that we might qualify for the final of our own AFCON.”
The Elephants will face neighbours Nigeria in the final at the same venue on Sunday, February 11 in what is a repeat of the group game between the two teams which saw the Super Eagles emerge narrow 1-0 victors.