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Ivory Coast edges into Africa Cup last 16 despite firing its coach. Morocco's win boosts host nation

Morocco's Tarik Tissoudali, left, challenges for the ball with Zambia's Frankie Musonda, during the African Cup of Nations Group F soccer match between Morocco and Zambia   -  
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Ivory Coast

Host nation Ivory Coast squeezed into the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations on the day it fired its coach.

Morocco’s 1-0 win over Zambia in Group F on Wednesday ensured Ivory Coast finished as the fourth-best third-place team, thus just qualifying for the knockout stage.

Zambia’s defeat left the Copper Bullets with two points after three games, one fewer than Ivory Coast, which failed to secure its own progress when it was beaten 4-0 by Equatorial Guinea in its final group game on Monday.

Morocco’s win set off unbridled celebrations in Abidjan, the largest city in Ivory Coast, where there were fireworks, supporters cheering in the streets and fans driving around honking their car horns. The Alassane Ouattara bridge linking the districts of Plateau and Cocody was illuminated in red and green, the colors of the Moroccan flag.

Morocco captain Hakim Ziyech became a local hero when he scored the only goal across four games Wednesday, firing in the rebound after Lawrence Mulenga saved Ayoub El Kaabi’s effort in the 37th.

The goal was immediately celebrated by the Ivorian fans in attendance in San Pedro, and those who heard about it at the other match between Tanzania and Congo in Korhogo. That game ended 0-0.

Ziyech and his teammates ran to celebrate on the sideline, where he made a heart sign for coach Walid Regragui, watching from the stands as he was serving a suspension imposed by the Confederation of African Football earlier Wednesday.

But Ivory Coast fans had to endure a nervy finale. Lameck Banda went just wide as Zambia started its best period of pressure around the hour-mark. Lubambo Musonda fired over for the Copper Bullets, who pushed hard for an equalizer that would have meant the hosts’ elimination.

Morocco then missed late chances to seal it with Mulenga pulling off two saves in stoppage time to keep the suspense to the end.

Ivory Coast fired coach Jean-Louis Gasset earlier Wednesday.

Morocco finished top of Group F with seven points, four more than Congo, which also reached the last 16. Zambia and Tasmania, with two points each, were eliminated.


Mali, South Africa and Namibia all advanced to the last 16 on Wednesday when they took part in the tournament’s first goalless games.

Mali’s 0-0 draw with Namibia was enough to top Group E, while South Africa clinched second place on goal difference from Namibia by drawing 0-0 with Tunisia.

Mali finished with five points, one more than South Africa and Namibia, while Tunisia was eliminated after finishing bottom of the group.

Namibia progressed as one of the four best third-place finishers, which was bad news for Ivory Coast at the time. The Elephants then needed a Morocco victory.

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