The holders are out of the tournament after an enthralling encounter in Yamoussoukro ended in favour of the hosts
Nigeria’s chances of winning the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations got brighter on Monday night after Cote d’Ivoire defeated holders Senegal 5-4 on penalties following a 1-1 draw at the Stade Charles Konan Banny, Soccernet.ng reports.
Senegal, who lifted their first-ever AFCON title two years ago in Cameroon, were the favourites before the kickoff as they faced an Ivorian side who had qualified as one of the best losers from the group stage.
The Teranga Lions showed their quality early when Sadio Mane sent a cross for Habib Diallo to chest down and power a left-footed drive into the roof of the net for the opening goal in the 4th minute.
Cote d’Ivoire, however, delivered an improved showing from their three previous displays, and they deserved their equaliser when it arrived four minutes before regulation time courtesy of a Franck Kessie penalty.
The two teams could not be separated after extra time as the game headed to the penalty shootout.
Defender Moussa Niakhaté crashed his own effort against the post, allowing Kessie to net the winning penalty for a 5-4 victory.
As it stands, Nigeria’s Super Eagles are now the second-highest-ranked side in Cote d’Ivoire following Senegal’s elimination.
Heading into the AFCON, the three-time winners were the sixth-best team on the continent according to the FIFA rankings.
However, Algeria and Tunisia exited the AFCON tournament in the group stages.
Interestingly, Egypt and defending champions Senegal have also failed to make it past the Round of 16 after tough losses to DR Congo and Cote d’Ivoire, respectively.
Only Africa’s number-one team, Morocco, the 2022 FIFA World Cup semifinalist, are the only team still at the AFCON currently ranked higher than Nigeria.
Nigeria will continue their quest for a fourth AFCON trophy when they trade tackles with Angola at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan on Friday, February 2.
The Angolans are looking to reach the semifinals for the first time in their history, while the Super Eagles have failed to make it to the last-four stage only four times out of 19 previous attempts.