25 January 2017

Morocco/Cote d'Ivoire: Morocco End Cote d'Ivoire's Reign As African Kings

Defending champions Cote d'Ivoire crashed out of the Africa Cup of Nations last night following a 1-0 loss to a Morocco side coached by Hervé Renard, the man who led the Ivorians to the title in 2015.

Rachid Alioui's strike from 25 metres after 64 minutes was the decisive moment in a match that Cote d'Ivoire had to win in order to maintain their crown.

Needing two goals with less than half an hour remaining, the Ivorian response was limp. "I'm extremely disappointed," said Cote d'Ivoire coach Michel Dussuyer. "We haven't realised our ambitions which were to get into the quarter-finals and continue the defence of our title."

Morocco, who lost their opening game to Democratic Republic of Congo on 16 January, move into the last eight for the first time in 13 years. As Group C runners-up, they will face Egypt or Ghana on Sunday in Port-Gentil. "Former players and coaches have been too quick to give their opinions," said Renard. "They should really mind their own business. The problem with football is that everyone has a solution."

DRC will advance as Group C winners following a 3-1 triumph over a plucky Togo side. Junior Kabananga opened the scoring in the 29th minute. He raced onto Chancel Mbemba's pass and slotted past Togo goalkeeper Cedric Mensah.

Firmin Mubele Ndombe added the second soon after the pause and just as a rout threatened, Kodjo Laba swept home after being set up by skipper Emmanuel Adebayor. DRC's two goal advantage was reestablished courtesy of Paul-Jose M'Poku's sumptuously struck free kick 10 minutes from time.

DRC players formed a guard of honour for the Togolese after the game. "I promised myself never to cry on the pitch," said Adebayor. "But I was very close to it. The emotion was crazy. The DRC skipper is a friend of mine. He came to me and said they were going to do a guard of honour for me. I said: 'OK'. It shows how much people love me and appreciate what I've done for my country and my continent."

Adebayor, 32, has been without a club since his contract expired with Crystal Palace last summer. Despite more than eight months without competitive action, he led his country in all three matches at the tournament.

"I got so much criticism when I included him in the Cup of Nations squad," said Togo coach Claude Le Roy. "People said I put Adebayor in because he was my friend. He is not my friend. I have a lot of respect for him and especially for what he has achieved in our three games. His behavior was perfect, exactly the contrary to what everyone said it would be."


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