The Africa Cup of Nations 2023 has been full of surprises, but none more so than the hosts Ivory Coast knocking out the defending champions Senegal in a nail-biting penalty shootout. Here’s how it all unfolded in Yamoussoukro.
Both teams came into the match with high expectations, having topped their respective groups with three wins out of three. Senegal, led by Liverpool star Sadio Mané, were the favourites to retain their title, while Ivory Coast, boosted by the home support, were hoping to emulate their 2015 triumph.
The first half was a cagey affair, with few clear chances for either side. Senegal had more possession and shots, but Ivory Coast defended well and looked dangerous on the counter-attack. The best opportunity fell to Senegal’s Ismaïla Sarr, who hit the post with a curling shot from the edge of the box.
The second half was more open and entertaining, as both teams pushed for the breakthrough. Ivory Coast took the lead in the 57th minute, when Jean Seri scored a stunning free-kick from 25 yards out, leaving Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy rooted to the spot. The hosts celebrated wildly, but their joy was short-lived, as Senegal equalized just four minutes later. Mané, who had been quiet for most of the game, burst into the box and crossed for M’Baye Niang, who tapped in from close range.
The game became more tense and physical, as both teams fought for the winner. Ivory Coast had a golden chance to seal the victory in the 89th minute, when they were awarded a penalty after Seri was fouled by Kalidou Koulibaly. However, Mendy redeemed himself by saving the spot-kick from Sébastien Haller, sending the game into extra time.
After 120 minutes of intense and exhausting football, the fate of the two teams was decided by a penalty shootout. Ivory Coast won the toss and chose to go first. Here’s how the shootout went:
- Haller scored for Ivory Coast, sending Mendy the wrong way. 1-0
- Niang scored for Senegal, placing his shot in the bottom corner. 1-1
- Kouamé scored for Ivory Coast, smashing his shot into the top corner. 2-1
- Niakhaté missed for Senegal, hitting the post. 2-1
- Aurier scored for Ivory Coast, powering his shot past Mendy. 3-1
- Dieng scored for Senegal, rolling his shot into the net. 3-2
- Mané scored for Senegal, rifling his shot into the roof of the net. 3-3
- Kessié scored for Ivory Coast, slotting his shot into the bottom corner. 4-3
- Gueye scored for Senegal, squeezing his shot under the keeper. 4-4
- Gradel scored for Ivory Coast, chipping his shot over Mendy. 5-4
Ivory Coast had won the shootout 5-4, and the stadium erupted in jubilation. The players and the fans celebrated wildly, while the Senegalese players collapsed in despair. It was a cruel way to end their title defence, but a glorious moment for the hosts, who advanced to the quarter-finals.
The Ivory Coast coach, Emerse Faé, who was appointed just before the tournament, praised his players for their courage and character. He said: “It was a very tough game, against a very strong team. We knew it would be difficult, but we never gave up. We showed our quality and our spirit. I’m very proud of my players and very happy for our fans. This is a great achievement for us, but we have to keep working hard and stay focused. We have another big game ahead of us.”
The Senegal coach, Aliou Cissé, who led his team to the title in 2021, expressed his disappointment and frustration. He said: “It’s a very hard and painful defeat. We came here with a lot of ambition and confidence, but we failed to reach our objective. We have to accept it and congratulate Ivory Coast, who deserved to win. They were better than us in the shootout. We have to learn from this and come back stronger. We have a lot of quality and talent in this team, but we have to work harder and be more consistent.”
The man of the match, Jean Seri, who scored a brilliant goal and a penalty, dedicated his performance to his country and his family. He said: “It’s an incredible feeling to win this game and to score such a beautiful goal. It’s a dream come true for me and for my country. I want to thank God, my teammates, my coach, and all the fans who supported us. This is for them, and for my family, who always believed in me. I’m very happy and very emotional, but we have to stay calm and humble. We have not won anything yet. We have to keep working and keep dreaming.”
Here are some of the key stats from the game, according to Olympics.com:
- Possession: Senegal 57% – Ivory Coast 43%
- Shots: Senegal 18 – Ivory Coast 11
- Shots on target: Senegal 6 – Ivory Coast 4
- Corners: Senegal 7 – Ivory Coast 3
- Fouls: Senegal 18 – Ivory Coast 16
- Yellow cards: Senegal 2 – Ivory Coast 3
- Red cards: Senegal 0 – Ivory Coast 0
The next round
Ivory Coast will face Angola in the quarter-finals, who beat Algeria 2-1 in extra time. The game will be played on Friday, February 2, at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan. Senegal will return home, hoping to bounce back in the next edition of the tournament in 2025.
Here are some of the frequently asked questions about the game and the tournament:
Q: How does the penalty shootout work in football?
- A: A penalty shootout is a tie-breaking method in football to determine the winner of a match that cannot end in a draw. Each team takes turns to shoot at the goal from the penalty mark, with only the goalkeeper to beat. Each team has five shots, and the team that scores more goals wins. If the score is still tied after five shots, the shootout continues on a sudden-death basis, until one team scores and the other team misses.
Q: How many times has Ivory Coast won the Africa Cup of Nations?
- A: Ivory Coast has won the Africa Cup of Nations twice, in 1992 and 2015. They have also finished as runners-up twice, in 2006 and 2012.
Q: How many times has Senegal won the Africa Cup of Nations?
- A: Senegal has won the Africa Cup of Nations once, in 2021. They have also finished as runners-up once, in 2002.
Q: Who is the top scorer of the Africa Cup of Nations 2023?
- A: The top scorer of the Africa Cup of Nations 2023 is Sébastien Haller of Ivory Coast, who has scored six goals in four games. He is followed by Sadio Mané of Senegal, who has scored four goals in four games.
Q: Who are the favourites to win the Africa Cup of Nations 2023?
- A: The favourites to win the Africa Cup of Nations 2023 are Nigeria, who have won the tournament three times, in 1980, 1994, and 2013. They have also reached the semi-finals in the last two editions, in 2019 and 2021. They will face Egypt, who have won the tournament a record seven times, in the quarter-finals. Other contenders include Morocco, who have won the tournament once, in 1976, and Cameroon, who have won the tournament five times, in 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, and 2017. They will face each other in the quarter-finals.