Preview: Ivorians eager to seize chance against Senegal after AFCON 'resurrection'

AFP , Monday 29 Jan 2024

Ivory Coast interim coach Emerse Fae said his team had "an obligation to give everything" in their Africa Cup of Nations last-16 tie against reigning champions Senegal on Monday after the hosts avoided a group-stage exit from the tournament by the skin of their teeth.

nterim Ivory Coast
Interim Ivory Coast coach Emerse Fae speaking in Yamoussoukro on Sunday ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations last-16 tie between the hosts and Senegal. AFP

 

"This resurrection, this qualification, was a bit of a long shot," Fae told reporters in the Ivorian capital Yamoussoukro, where Monday's game will be played.

"God has given us a second chance, so now we have an obligation to give our everything."

Fae, who played alongside Didier Drogba in the Ivorian team that lost the 2006 AFCON final to Egypt, was an emergency appointment as coach of the Elephants following the sacking of Jean-Louis Gasset.

The veteran Frenchman was dismissed after Ivory Coast's humiliating 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea last Monday in their final group game.

That result meant they finished behind Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria in their section, but they scraped through to the knockout stage as the last of the four best third-placed teams.

"We had two or three days that were very difficult mentally," said Fae, whose team had to wait 48 hours to find out they had qualified thanks to Morocco's defeat of Zambia.

"It was very difficult for us to focus on our work. We needed to let the wounds of the 4-0 defeat heal and then pray that we would qualify.

"It was like a liberation for us when Morocco beat Zambia on Wednesday."

The defeat against Equatorial Guinea was Ivory Coast's heaviest ever home defeat and Fae admitted "it would be unacceptable for my players not to show a different attitude" compared to that game.

Even after the two-time African champions had qualified, it looked as though Fae might not get to take charge of a game.

The Ivorian federation attempted to bring in Herve Renard, the coach of the 2015 AFCON-winning side, on a short-term deal until the end of the competition.

However, that move was knocked back by the French Football Federation, with whom Renard is currently under contract as coach of the France women's team.

Fae claimed he had not been affected by all the external noise.

"I had other things to worry about than whether Peter, Paul or James was going to come and take my place," said the former Nantes and Nice midfielder, who had already been working on the coaching staff under Gasset.

"And contrary to what people might think, I have not only had two or three days to prepare for this match. The fact I already knew the players has saved me time."

In contrast to their opponents, Senegal cruised through their group with a perfect record, but their coach Aliou Cisse insisted that now counted for nothing.

"All that is over. The group stage is finished. A new competition is starting now," he said.

"If we are unlucky enough for things to go badly tomorrow, it will bring us back down to earth after all the praise we have had and the nice things that have been said about us."

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