Ivory Coast secured third place in the 2016 African Nations Championship, as they beat Guinea 2-1 at the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali, Rwanda, on Sunday.
Abdoul Cisse was the hero for the Ivory Coast, as the goalkeeper saved a penalty in each half for his side.
Two goals in the space of three first-half minutes gave the Elephants a two-goal advantage, the first an own goal after a shocking mistake from Guinea goalkeeper Abdoul Keita, before a neat passing move was finished superbly by Badie Gbagnon. Alseny Bangoura scored a late consolation for Guinea.
Before the match, Guinea manager Mohamed Kanfory Bangoura thought his team deserved third place for their fine efforts throughout the tournament, and especially in the semi-final, per David Isabirye of Kawowo Sports:
At the moment we are the better team psychologically for me. We deserve the third place at least for that third place match. We share a lot in common.
Football is a science itself. CHAN is a great tournament. Giving players especially those that play at home to play and enjoy was a good initiative.
Guinea were very much on top in the early stages of this one, as they forced the Elephants back toward their own goal with some slick passing.
After carving out some early chances that weren’t taken, they had a great opportunity to go in front in the 27th minute, as the referee pointed to the spot after Abdulaye Samake was felled. However, Cisse kept out what was a poor effort from Sory Sankhon.
It was a moment that completely altered the course of the contest. The dominance Guinea previously exerted on the game quickly dissipated, as Ivory Coast began forcing their players into errors. However, nobody was expecting a mistake quite as basic as the one made by Sylis skipper Keita in goal.
A simple back pass was rolled to the goalkeeper in the 32nd minute of the game, and Keita completely took his eye off the ball, and it rolled under his foot and into the back of the net. It was a comical moment the Ivory Coast players seemed almost embarrassed to celebrate.
After going from the brink of being a goal ahead to a goal down in farcical circumstances within the space of five minutes, it was little surprise to see the Guinea players were disheartened. That much was certainly evident just two minutes later when the Elephants capitalised.
There was nothing fortunate about this goal, though. A neat move saw the ball fall to Gbagnon on the edge of the penalty area, and before Keita even had a chance to set himself, the midfielder thrashed a shot past him. It gave the Ivory Coast a two-goal advantage at the interval, and as the players trudged off at half-time, Guinea were already looking beaten.
However, they did come again in the second period, knowing a goal would see them back in contention for the bronze medal. And in the 63rd minute, they were awarded their second penalty of the day after the Ivory Coast scythed down Boniface Haba in the area.
This time, Alseny Camara stepped up looking to make things tight in the final stages. But remarkably, once again, there was no way past Camara, who plunged to his right to save the effort.
As noted by sports journalist George I. Essien, after missing the second penalty kick, the Sylis players were starting to lose their discipline:
George I. Essien @mightygeorgeng
Coach Bangoura's boys are frustrated and taking it out on the Ivoriens. He should talk to them to calm down and score penalties instead.2016-2-7 14:26:19
After making all three of their substitutions, there was even more misery for Guinea late on. Haba hobbled off injured in the 80th minute, meaning they were forced to chase down the two-goal deficit with 10 men. However, despite all the things that went against them in the game, they were able to set up a nervous finish.
Bangoura was the man who pounced from a set piece to head home in the 86th minute, but it proved to be too little, too late for the Sylis.
Ultimately, the difference on the day was the two goalkeepers. While Cisse kept his side in contention with two fine stops from the penalty spot, a shocking lapse in concentration from Keita allowed Ivory Coast to get a foothold in the contest, demoralising the Guinea players in the process.
After losing out to a late goal in the semi-final against Mali, the third-place victory is just a consolation prize for the Ivory Coast players. But they have turned in some vibrant displays throughout this tournament with accompanying brilliant goals, like Gbagnon’s in this match.
Although Guinea deserved credit for battling on to the bitter end, this was the positive ending to the tournament the Elephants deserved.