Côte d’Ivoire have been knocked out of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon following their 1-0 defeat at the hands of Morocco, coached by former Ivorian tactician Hervé Renard.
A 64th minute long-range curling strike from Rachid Alioui settled the encounter in favour of Morocco.
The loss to the Atlas Lions in Oyem on Tuesday night ensured that the defending AFCON champions finished the group stage third in Group C, eliminating them from the competition.
The Elephants earned only two points from their three group matches, allowing Morocco to advance to the quarter-final stage alongside group winners DR Congo.
Renard has been supremely successful at the Nations Cup, winning the competition on two occasions with Zambia in 2012 and Côte d’Ivoire in 2015. He now has a chance to make it a third career AFCON victory with his North African team.
Speaking to the media following the Moroccan victory, Renard gave an honest assessment of the encounter.
‘I feel very good. Congratulations to the players. They did well tactically. They did not do well technically. The pitch is very difficult but at the end when you are winning the game 1-0 against the African champion of course I am very happy,’ said Renard.
‘I think that my feeling was that I was very lucky in this Nations Cup. I do not know why. There is one spirit. I know where it is coming from. We have to continue. We have to go far,’ the Frenchman added.
‘I told the players during half time that if we continue like that we shall go out. It was not enough in the first half. We were scared of Ivory Coast. When you are scared of your opponent, you cannot achieve anything,’ he admitted.
Côte d’Ivoire’s departure from the competition in the first round is a massive disappointment for their fans, with growing calls for coach Michel Dussuyer to be sacked since the tournament started. Those will now become deafening choruses.
The Ivorians went into the tournament on the back foot; having lost former captain Yaya Touré to retirement before a knee injury ensured that star attacking player Gervinho would be unavailable for the AFCON.
Renard will have to wait until Wednesday night to find out which opponent stands in the way of Morocco’s semi-final progression, with Ghana, Egypt and Mali still able to top Group D.