Cote d’Ivoire is now the reigning king of African football with it’s 9-8 penalty shootout defeat of Ghana on February 8
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Feb. 23, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
AT last, the Elephants of Cole d’Ivoire has broken the jinx over its inability to win the AFCON trophy. The golden generation of Cote d’Ivoire national team, popularly called The Elephants, has ended the 23 years wait for continental trophy. The Elephants became the new king of African football after defeating Ghana on penalties at the just concluded 2015 African Cup of Nations, AFCON, hosted by Equatorial Guinea, on Sunday, February 8.
Right until the end of the epic and tense 9-8 penalty shoot-out, many people believed the Ivoriens were destined to lift the trophy for the first time in 23 years. The victory was historic for the Ivoriens. It is the first time that the West African country will return home with the ultimate prize after failed attempts in the last 12 years by the golden generation. The 2013 quarter-finalist lifted the trophy at a time many people expected them to win. It was a well deserved victory which came about not by fortune, but through solidarity and determination on the part of a well-motivated team.
The Elephants began writing their historic script in the 2015 tournament with a 1-0 last group stage win over a highly-rated Cameroon side and a 3-1 win over pre-tournament favourite, Algeria, in the quarter-final stage. The 2012 runners-up went on to defeat DR Congo in the semi-final stage. This set the stage for the eventual final clash with Ghana, another pre-tournament favourite.
Yaya Toure, Ivorien’s inspirational captain, was overjoyed after leading his country to the continental title. He described leading Cote d’Ivoire to an exceptional Afcon triumph as the highlight of his illustrious career. Yaya had previously won league titles with Manchester City, Barcelona and Olympiakos. “Sometimes when you win with your club, it’s magical, but winning with your country is something exceptional. We worked so hard to win and we will celebrate with our families. I have waited so long for this moment and to lift a trophy as captain, it’s huge. We must congratulate Coach Herve Renard, who has done a great job. We have often been aggressively criticised. I’ve lost twice in the final, so to be here now is fantastic. I’m so happy,” he said.
Herve Renard, Cote d’Ivoire Coach, knew his players had to be calm and collected to beat Ghana. He equally understood what the triumph meant to the winning nation. “We dedicate this win to the Ivorian people. Football has this magic element in that it unites all the ethnic groups, all the people who perhaps don’t think the same way. Ivory Coast is more than delighted today and that’s the most important thing.”
Renard on Sunday, February 8, became the first coach to win the trophy with two different countries having done same with Zambia in 2012. Sunday night was the 10th time the AFCON would be decided through penalty shoot outs. The finale was also the first time in the history of the tournament, two families played in the AFCON final as the Toure brothers Kolo and Yaya played against the Ayew brothers of Andre and Jordan.
It was heartbreaking for the Ghana team whose 33 years wait for the continental trophy has to continue till the 2017 edition. In the meeting of the two West African giants, The Elephants defeated the Black Stars of Ghana 11-10 in penalties to win their first continental title in 1992. Avram Grant, Ghana coach, praised his team, saying that reaching the final alone was a big achievement. “We were the better team but we did not create enough chances. Ghana can be proud of this young team,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Côte d’Ivoire declared Monday, February, 9, a public holiday to celebrate its dramatic win over Ghana in the Afcon final. Alassane Ouattara, Côte d’Ivoire President, who declared the public holiday, hosted the 2015 Africa champions at his Presidential Palace in Abidjan and rewarded the team for their successful continental campaign. Each player was granted a house with a value of €46,000 as well as the same amount in cash, while Renard received more than € 114,000 for leading the country to African glory. As for the Ivoirian Football Federation, they were granted € 380,000, while the teams’ technical and administrative staff enjoyed € 460,000 to share.
Furthermore, the entire squad was made Knight of the National Order, with veterans Barry, Siaka Tiéné, Kolo and Yaya Touré and coach Renard being elevated to the rank of Officer of the National Order. “You managed to rebuild a strong team working as one towards one goal, winning and winning more. It’s a lesson in rallying people together,” President Ouattara said.