In a thrilling encounter at the Stade Charles Konan Banny, Ivory Coast emerged victorious in a tense penalty shootout against defending champions Senegal, securing a spot in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.
The match, which ended 1-1 after regular time and extra-time, saw Franck Kessie become the hero for the host nation.
Ivory Coast’s journey to the quarter-finals was nothing short of dramatic.
After being left on the bench by interim coach Emerse Fae, Kessie showcased his prowess by equalizing with a well-converted penalty in the 86th minute, cancelling out Habib Diallo’s early opener. The chaos that had engulfed the Ivory Coast camp since their 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea seemed to have jeopardized their chances, but Fae’s strategic move to introduce Kessie and Nicolas Pepe from the bench turned the tide in their favor.
The match entered a penalty shootout after extra time, with Ivory Coast emerging triumphant with a 5-4 scoreline. Kessie, who had already showcased his penalty-taking ability in regular time, calmly slotted home the winning spot-kick after Moussa Niakhate’s miss provided the Elephants an advantage.
Despite Sadio Mane’s contribution to Senegal’s efforts, including hammering home their final penalty, Kessie’s nerve and composure secured a remarkable redemption arc for Ivory Coast. The hosts, who narrowly advanced from the group stage, now find themselves set for a quarter-final clash against either Mali or Burkina Faso.
Coach Emerse Fae’s decision not to start Kessie and Pepe raised eyebrows, but his strategic substitution proved pivotal in the Ivory Coast’s comeback.
Kessie’s performance, reminiscent of his days with AC Milan, and Pepe’s impactful presence on the field, now position Fae as a potential hero capable of leading the Elephants to further success in the tournament.