Ivory Coast have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games after beaten Ghana’s Black Meteors 3-2 on penalties on Tuesday in the semis of the Caf U23 Cup of Nations tournament at the Cairo International Stadium.
The Black Meteors came from behind twice to draw 2-2 against their Ivorians counterparts but failed to do the needful during the penalty shootouts as substitute Emmanuel Cudjoe, Evans Mensah and Kwabena Owusu all missed their kicks.
Yossousif Dao opened the scoring for Ivory Coast in the 13th minute with a fine strike as coach Ibrahim Tanko’s Black Meteors ended the first half with a 1-0 disadvantage.
The Ivorians nearly doubled their lead four minutes after Dao’s goal but
Kwame Baah made a good save to deny the Ivorians from scoring again.
Ghana really struggled to control the game in the first half, leaving Ivory Coast to dominate play with some superb ball possession.
Coach Ibrahim Tanko had to go for an early substitution by bringing on striker Kwabena Owusu who scored twice against Mali in the previous game to replace Robin Polley who had been flash the first yellow card in the game.
Black from recess, Ghana started dominating play with captain Yaw Yeboah beautifully snatching the equalizer for Ghana in the 50th minute.
However, the Black Meteors defense were not at their quality best with Kingsley Fobi and Edward Sarpong being the worst culprits throughout the game.
Yossousif Dao who gave the Ghanaian defense tough time again struck on the 84th minute to give his side’s a 2-1 lead to the disappointment of coach Ibrahim Tanko and his technical handlers.
Coach Tanko in the 88th minute substituted goal scorer Yaw Yeboah for winger Frank Arhin in attempt to restore parity in the crucial clash.
Winger Evans Mensah finally struck in the 89th minute to push the game to extra time.
Kwabena Owusu made some brilliant move and was fouled in the penalty box but the referee failed to whistle for a penalty as Evans Mensah excellently slotted the ball into the net with his left foot to restore the Black Meteors hope of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
With six minutes gone in the first half of the extra time, Coach Ibrahim Tanko finally substituted flopped Kingsley Fobi for Emmanuel Cudjoe to have his debut in the tournament.
Nurudeen- Abdul Aziz, however was handed his debut of the tournament by coach Tanko after coming on for Michael Agbekpornu in the 106th minute.
The game then became a 50/50 affair with the Black Meteors looking dangerous upfront.
Dao had a fine chance to grab hat-trick in the game in the 119th mark but thanks to Kwame Baah who made a good save to push the game to penalty shootouts after 120 minutes of thrilling and entertaining football at the Cairo international stadium.
The Black Meteors will now wait to play the loser of the game between Egypt and South Africa in third place to know their fate of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games.