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AFCON 2023: Ivory Coast suffer defeat to Equatorial Guinea

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Franck Kessie, left, comforts team-mate Simon Adingra after Ivory Coast’s heavy defeat

Africa Cup of Nations hosts Ivory Coast are on the brink of a humiliating exit from their own tournament after a shock 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea.

Two more goals from Emilio Nsue, the hat-trick hero from the win against Guinea-Bissau, and strikes from Pablo Ganet and substitute Jannick Buyla left Ivory Coast with only a slim chance of qualifying after finishing third in Group A.

Three points means they are unlikely to be one of the four third-placed teams to get through, although agonisingly, they might not know their fate until Wednesday evening, when the group stage is completed.

Equatorial Guinea, meanwhile, were confirmed as surprise group winners, ahead of Nigeria in second.

Ivory Coast had two goals disallowed for offside and snatched at a host of presentable chances, and they were made to pay.

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They could have had a penalty when Nicolas Pepe burst into the area after a long ball over the top fell at his feet and was clearly fouled by Saul Coco.

Pepe opted to stay on his feet, however, but he was unable to round Equatorial Guinea keeper Jesus Owono, and the opportunity went begging.

And Ivory Coast were stunned three minutes before half-time when Akapo surged past four non-existent tackles into the area and squared the ball for Nsue.

The former Birmingham and Middlesbrough full-back, now 34 and captaining his country, swept the ball home for the first time.

The host nation, Ivory Coast thought they had hit back immediately when Ibrahim Sangare bundled the ball into the net from Pepe’s cross, but VAR confirmed the Nottingham Forest midfielder was offside.

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Sangare should have equalised moments into the second half, only to blaze wastefully over at the far post, and Owono somehow denied Christian Kouame from point-blank range.

In the 67th minute, Jean-Philippe Krasso took Seko Fofana’s pass in his stride and curled the ball past Owono, but once again, VAR stepped in where an offside flag had not, and the goal was chalked off.

Instead, six minutes later, Ganet silenced the Alassane Ouattara Stadium with a curling free-kick that flew into the top corner.

The hosts’ fate was all but sealed when, in the 75th minute, Jose Machin led a counter-attack and teed up Nsue for a simple finish.

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And arguably the biggest upset in AFCON history was complete two minutes from time when Buyla lashed home the fourth.

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