Ivory Coast is on the verge of a shocking exit from the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after a devastating 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea in their final Group A match in Abidjan on Monday.
Emilio Nsue, who had already delivered a hat-trick against Guinea-Bissau, showcased his prowess once again by scoring a double.
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The victory propelled Equatorial Guinea to the top of the group, edging out Nigeria based on goal difference.
In the parallel match, Nigeria secured a 1-0 win against Guinea-Bissau.
The defeat leaves Ivory Coast, a two-time AFCON champion, in a precarious position as they have only failed to advance from the group stage once in the previous nine editions of the tournament, which occurred in 2017.
Jean-Louis Gasset’s men now face a nervous wait to see if they will progress to the last 16 as one of the four best third-placed teams. The outcome largely depends on other results in the tournament.
The Ivorians, who started the game brightly, struggled to create clear-cut chances. Equatorial Guinea goalkeeper Jesus Owono made a crucial save from Oumar Diakite’s wild effort, and Nicolas Pepe’s appeal for a penalty was waved off despite a possible foul in the box.
Equatorial Guinea took a surprising lead just before half-time when right-back Carlos Akapo provided an assist for Nsue to put the ball into the bottom corner.
Ivory Coast’s attempts to equalise faced setbacks, with VAR disallowing a goal from Ibrahim Sangare for offside and later denying Jean-Philippe Krasso’s left-footed shot.
The underdogs capitalised on Ivory Coast’s missed opportunities, with Pablo Ganet scoring a brilliant free-kick in the 73rd minute. Nsue sealed the victory with his fifth goal of the tournament, leaving the Ivorian defence exposed after a quick counter-attack.
Ivory Coast’s goal difference, which could play a crucial role in qualification, suffered further damage when Jannick Buyla scored from a rebound with two minutes left in normal time.
The defeat leaves Ivory Coast fans disillusioned, with the team now depending on favourable outcomes in other group-stage matches to keep their AFCON hopes alive.