2023 Africa Cup of Nations last-16: nerve, know-how and luck take centre stage

From elation to ululation and finally salvation – a dozen days in the life of a Cote d’Ivoire fan. It started so well for the hosts and their adoring legions. Seko Fofana’s sumptuous strike early in the game against Guinea Bissau during the opening match of the 2023 competition on 13 January ignited the tournament and furnished the platform for a 2-0 victory at the shiny Alassane Outtara Stadium in Abidjan.

The show went slightly left-field with the 1-0 loss to Nigeria on 18 January and turned vaudeville in the 4-0 annihilation against Equatorial Guinea four days later.

Still, there was hope amid the writhing: qualification for the last-16 as one of the four best third-placed teams. But that fate wouldn't be known for another 48 hours.

An inkling of the impending good fortune came on the very night of their abject defeat.

Cote d'Ivoire - with their three points and -3 goal difference - were down the pecking order as Egypt were drawing with Cape Verde and Ghana led Mozambique 2-0 in Group B.

As it stood, Ghana would advance to the last-16 as runners-up and Egypt would be third with three points but with a 0 goal difference.

But the luck of the Ivorians or perhaps the Ghanaian desire to opt for self-immolation instead of cruise control.

Chris Hughton’s men allowed Mozambique to score two goals in second-half stoppage time to force a 2-2 and inhale Ghana from the plains of participation to join them in the caverns of oblivion.


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