Reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions Ivory Coast has failed to make it past the group stage after losing to Morocco 1-0 overnight.
It needed to collect victory over Morocco after drawing its first two games. However it was ultimately undone by a 64th-minute thunder strike to Rachid Alioui which also ensured that Morocco made it through to the quarter finals.
It was a pleasing match for Morocco’s coach Herve Renard who had led Ivory Coast to the AFCON title in 2015. The Frenchman had done his homework on The Elephants and ensured that it was closed down at almost every opportunity.
In a must-win match. Ivory Coast showed very little to suggest it was fighting for its survival. It had only two chances of any note throughout the match.
First, Wilfried Zaha hit a feeble shot from 12 yards out that was easily dealt with by Morocco keeper Mohan Mohamedi, and later on in the match Salamon Kalou’s header from an acute angle clipped the post and went wide.
Morocco knowing that a draw would more than likely get it through to the final 8, was happy to sit back and defend for large periods of the game. Despite only having 34% possession it managed just one less shot than the Ivory Coast and constantly hit their opponents on the counter attack which proved fruitful.
It was unlucky not to have hit the lead on 24 minutes when a stinging free kick by Faycal Fajr cannoned back of the crossbar after it appeared to have beaten the goal keeper.
The death knell sounded for the Ivory Coast on 64 minutes when Alioui collected a ball after a pass from Malaga CF striker Youssef En-Nesyri. He pushed the ball to the side of one defender and despite the attention of another on-rushing defender he curled a sublime shot over the outstretched fingers of Sylvain Gbohouo.
Alioui had only come on just before half-time to replace the injured Aziz Bouhaddouz, and made sure his contribution counted.
Even despite being down, Ivory Coast couldn’t muster anything to unlock the defence of the Moroccan’s. In what has been a disappointing competition, The Elephants go home with just two draws and one defeat. It has lacked impetus for the whole tournament and now it goes home to what will be a disappointed home country.
Morocco advance to the quarter finals where it will face off against the winner of Group D. Which will be either Ghana or Egypt.
Photo credit: getty images