Football

Holders Ivory Coast suffer ANC exit

Defending champions the Ivory Coast were sent packing from the African Nations Cup yesterday morning (Singapore time) after losing 1-0 to a Morocco side coached by their old boss Herve Renard.

A brilliant Rachid Alioui goal gave Morocco the victory in Oyem in northern Gabon as the Atlas Lions marched on to the quarter-finals alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An impressive Congolese side eased to a 3-1 win against Togo in the night's other game in Port-Gentil as they sealed top spot in Group C.

But it is the elimination of the Elephants, winners in 2015 after a penalty shoot-out against Ghana, that overshadows all else.

Their departure is the latest blow to the tournament following premature exits for hosts Gabon and much-fancied Algeria in the last few days.

And for the fourth consecutive African Nations Cup, the reigning champions will be absent from the quarter-finals. However, the winning coach from two years ago will be in the last eight.

The blond, bronzed 48-year-old Renard, wearing his lucky white shirt, hopes to become the first coach to win three titles with three different countries, having also won it with Zambia in 2012.

He said: "Today we beat the Ivory Coast on a bad pitch that proved to be a leveller.

"Now a new competition begins with the knockout matches, which will be much like this one, and we will need a winning mentality."

Alioui, of French second-tier side Nimes, curled in a sublime long-range effort at the end of a counter-attack just past the hour mark to break the deadlock and leave the Ivorians needing to score twice to stay alive.

But they could not.

"It is an immense disappointment. My thoughts go out to all Ivorians who are going through a difficult time," said their French coach Michel Dussuyer.

"I take responsibility.

"We did not fulfil our objectives. Our ambition was to get past the first round and retain our title. It is going to be a difficult night."- AFP

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