The Ivory Coast fell to Morocco 1-0 on Tuesday in a game they needed to win to keep their tournament hopes alive.
The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations champions went winless in the group stage drawing twice before allowing Morocco to finish above them in second place.
It was an extremely poor showing from The Elephants who lacked urgency in their play. Throughout 90 minutes they created only two significant chances. One, when Wilfried Zaha’s effort from 12 yards went straight at the goalkeeper, and two, when Salomon Kalou found his header just clipping the outside of the post.
Morocco frustrated the Ivory Coast with their play. Knowing that a draw would likely see them through, Morocco stayed compact defensively and only attacked on the counter.
In fact, it was on the counter that they found their exquisite go-ahead goal in the 64th minute. Forward Rachid Alioui found himself all alone in the center of the Ivory Coast’s half with only one defender in front of him. Instead of beating the defender with skill, and just when more defenders were getting back to help, he sent an absolute curler from 25-yards out into the right side of the goal.
After going behind, The Elephants still couldn’t get much going on the offensive front, and when the referee blew the final whistle Morocco deservedly secured their spot in the knockout stages.
Junior Kabananga became the tournament’s top goal scorer (3) when he helped his DR Congo side secure the top spot in Group C defeating bottom of the table Togo 3-1.
Before Kabananga opened the scoring for DR Congo, Togo were hit with some bad luck when goalkeeper Baba Tchagouni was forced off following an injury. Third-choice goalkeeper Cedric Mensah took his place after first choice stopper Kossi Agassa was allowed to return home just days before due to his home being vandalized by fans angry with his performance in Togo’s 3-1 defeat to Morocco.
Mensah finished the half having only conceded Kabananga’s 29th minute opener, but was left flat footed in the 54th minute, after some wretched defending it should be noted, when Ndombe Mubele dinked the ball over his head and into the back of the net.
Togo were given a lifeline in the 69th after Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba tucked away a first-time finish into the bottom right of the goal, but were pegged back yet again just 11 minutes later. It was Paul-Jose M’Poku’s laser of a free kick, hitting the crossbar and just crossing the line before coming out again, that sealed the DR Congo’s second victory in Group C.
Both Morocco and the DR Congo will await Wednesday’s results which will decide their quarterfinal opponents. DR Congo will play the runners-up in Group D and Morocco will face the Group D winners.