Ivory Coast clinched the Africa Cup of Nations title through a stunning comeback, securing a 2-1 victory against Nigeria in Sunday's final at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium. Winning coach Emerse Fae highlighted the overwhelming emotion of relief as the key sentiment for the team, emphasizing the significance of seizing second chances.
The host nation's journey was a testament to resilience, fighting back from a goal down in three out of four knockout matches after nearly facing early elimination. Fae, who took over from Jean-Louis Gasset, expressed his difficulty in comprehending the remarkable turnaround: “When I think about all we went through, the hard times when we almost were out, and the matches where we came back in last minutes, we have created some miracles.”
Reflecting on the challenging moments, Fae acknowledged the team's determination not to waste their second chance: “We feel relief firstly after all the difficulties. We were close to humiliation but when we had a second chance, we were determined not to waste it.”
Despite being down at halftime in the final, Fae instilled belief in the players to keep fighting and put pressure on Nigeria: “We always believed we could come back because Nigeria looked exhausted.”
Fae also credited Jean-Louis Gasset, acknowledging his contribution even after the coach's departure following a 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea in the group stage: “He should also be associated with this win.”
The Ivorians' triumph marks a historic achievement, becoming the first hosts to win the Cup of Nations in the last eight editions since Egypt's home success in 2006. The fairytale redemption showcases Ivory Coast's unwavering spirit and belief in turning adversity into victory.