2023 AFCON: Ivory Coast ‘not getting excited’ after knocking out Senegal
Image caption: Emerse Fae had a senior international managerial debut to remember as Ivory Coast reached the Afcon quarter-finals
Ivory Coast caretaker boss Emerse Fae says his side will not dwell on their win over Senegal and can lift the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations trophy.
The Elephants were underdogs against the defending champions after two defeats in the group phase.
But the hosts, who only advanced to the last 16 because of other results, stunned the Teranga Lions on penalties.
“We’re definitely not going to get excited,” said Fae. “We are going to savour the win and get back to work.”
The 40-year-old added: “We have come so far. We are going to continue to work on our solidity.
“We need to keep this state of mind which will give us the strength to perhaps go for the title.”
Jean-Louis Gasset started the tournament as Ivory Coast coach but was sacked following a 4-0 thrashing by Equatorial Guinea which was their heaviest-ever home defeat and left their hopes of knockout football hanging by a thread.
Morocco’s win over Zambia ultimately sent them through as one of the four best third-placed teams from the six groups, and Ivory Coast then failed in a bid to re-appoint Herve Renard for the remainder of the campaign.
Fae will now lead the Ivorians when they face Mali in the last eight on Saturday (17:00 GMT) after the Eagles beat Burkina Faso on Tuesday.
‘I didn’t take my nap’
Former Nantes, Reading and Nice midfielder Fae had been Gasset’s assistant but his daunting debut in charge of a first team was a tough challenge which forced him to sacrifice his usual sleep routine.
“I’m not going to lie to myself – it was a very long day,” said the former international.
“I didn’t manage to take my daily nap because I was thinking about all of the scenarios that could happen in the match.
“The pressure is there when it’s a round of 16 match against the holders, who are one of the favourites. But it’s a positive pressure that I ultimately like.”
Fae’s tactical and psychological work with the team during five “difficult” days of preparation paid off.
Franck Kessie levelled from the spot in the 86th minute against Senegal as part of a much-improved display before he then struck the decisive penalty to seal a 5-4 shootout win after Moussa Niakhate missed for the Teranga Lions.
Image caption: Franck Kessie’s penalty brought Ivory Coast level against Senegal and then the midfielder scored the winner in the shootout
“We devoted the first two days to concentrating on ourselves and regaining a little confidence, a little pep,” said Fae.
“To bring back confidence, you have to rediscover the basics of football. The sessions were intense and the players had to draw from the bottom of their reserves – and that brought its fruits.
“We conceded a goal after four minutes against the best team in Africa at the moment, the reigning champions, and we did not give up.”
Senegal reflect on ‘cruel’ exit
Many observers might have expected a Senegal side who convincingly beat Guinea, Cameroon and The Gambia during the group stage to build on the lead they established through Habib Diallo’s fourth-minute opener in the 1-1 draw.
“In defeat, we keep our dignity,” said manager Aliou Cisse, while striker Sadio Mane congratulated Ivory Coast and called football “cruel”.
“We stopped playing after our goal – that’s the regret,” added Cisse.
“We will see what the future has in store for us. I want to digest this defeat because everyone is disappointed.
“There will surely be discussions with my federation but my future does not matter at the moment. What matters is Senegal.”
Cisse oversaw Senegal’s 2021 Afcon triumph when they beat Egypt on penalties in the final and led them to the last 16 of the 2022 World Cup, losing to England but achieving an all-time high world ranking of 18th.
“Maybe it was the atmosphere, the stakes of the match or the pressure,” midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye said of their first Afcon defeat since losing the 2019 final.
“Ivory Coast were hurt and wanted to redeem themselves in front of their public, in front of their country.”
Image caption: Aliou Cisse has been in charge of Senegal since March 2015 and led the Teranga Lions to the Nations Cup title in 2021