Eliezer sends Cote d’Ivoire to Tokyo

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Cote d’Ivoire needed a penalty shootout to defeat Ghana 3-2 after a 2-2 draw in regular time of the Total U-23 Africa Cup of Nations semifinal at the Cairo International Stadium on Tuesday evening, to secure their place in Friday’s final and grab the first automatic ticket in next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

After a 2-2 draw in regular time, the extra time witnessed no more goals as the game was decided by penalties that saw Ivoirian goalkeeper Eliezer Tape saving three of Ghana’s kicks to send his side to next year’s Olympics for the second time in their history.

Youssouf Dao took the lead for the Ivoirians after 13 minutes, linking well to Hamid Traore’s pass that sent him in a clear scoring position. A lead that lasted till halftime.

Six minutes after the break, Yaw Yeboah restored parity for the Black Meteors. Samuel Obieng sent a cross that found Yeboah whose shot was too strong for the Ivoirian keeper to stop.

Dao thought he has won the game for Cote d’Ivoire when he completed his brace six minutes from time with a diving header from Silas Gnaka’s cross.

But deep into the injury time, Evans Mensah received Ouswo Kwabena’s cross to score from close range and send the game to the extra time. No side could add to their tally as the game headed to penalties.

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In the shootout, Eliezer Tape was the hero for the Ivoirians, stopping three spot kicks as Les Elephants prevailed 3-2 to reach the final and next year’s Olympics in the process. Ghana will have a second chance when they play in the third place playoffs on Friday.

Hosts Egypt takes on South Africa in the second semifinal later at the same venue

Total Man of the match: Youssouf Dao (Cote d’Ivoire)

What they said

Youssouf Dao (Total Man of the match)

I am happy with this award and I enjoy this qualification at the Olympic Games which is the main objective coming here. Now we are relieved and we wait for the other finalist.

Souhailo Haidara (Coach, Cote d’Ivoire)

It was a tough game, but the main thing was done even if it's on penalties. But we must not neglect the value of the opponent, Ghana who had a great game.

Ibrahim Tanko (Coach, Ghana)

I want to congratulate Cote d’Ivoire who qualified to the final and got their qualification to the Olympics. Tonight we missed on penalties, but both teams have given a beautiful image of African football and we still have a chance of Olympic qualification with the ranking match.