ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia will return to the Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after an eight year absence despite a 3-1 loss at the hands of Côte d’Ivoire in Abidjan on Tuesday.
Ethiopia went through after Madagascar was held to a goalless draw by Niger in the other group match in Masaina, meaning The Walia Ibex finish second in the group and earn a ticket to Cameroon.
Ethiopia found themselves trailing 127 seconds into the match. Serge Aurier who starred in last week’s 3-0 win over Niger with a goal and two assists continued from where he left off, floating a neat delivery into the box off a corner that was converted by Willy Boly.
They were 2-0 down in the 17th minute when the home side doubled their tally, Franck Kessie scoring from the penalty spot. The AC Milan midfielder sent the keeper the wrong way after Kouassi was brought down inside the box by Remdan Yussef.
In the second half, the home side had some efforts to score. Five minutes after the restart, Kouassi had a chipped effort come off the bar as he looked to catch the keeper off his line. In the 65th minute, Yohan Boli missed a great chance when he tapped wide unmarked at the back post off a Jouassi cross.
Rthiopia brought themselves back into the game when Kebede scored in the 73rd minute, tapping the ball in from a yard out after Shemekit Gugesa’s cross from the left landed on his path.
But the hope of a comeback was short-lived as the Ivorians got back to their two goal cushion three minutes later when Kouasi scored after wriggling away from two markers off a Max Gradel cross before slamming into the net.
In Masaina, Madagascar needed to win against visitors Niger to reach their second successive AFCON finals.
But the goalless draw meant Barea missed the chance.
The result meant that Ethiopia went through from Group K, despite having been 3-1 down to Ivory Coast when the match was abandoned on 80 minutes after referee Charles Bulu collapsed on the pitch.
The referee was immediately taken to hospital after receiving treatment.
Bulu had replaced the original referee for the game, who had not arrived for the kick-off. The appointment replacement for Bulu turned out to be Ivorian himself, and therefore could not take over, and the game was abandoned.
Regardless, Madagascar’s failure to beat bottom-placed Niger means Ethiopian national team, who started their celebration in dressing room in Abidjan after hearing their qualifications, will attend the total AFCON 2021.
Back in Ethiopia, people immediately filled the streets of the capital city, Addis Ababa, and celebrated their team’s first African Nations Cup finals since 2013 and saluted their heroes.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed too saluted the Walias qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations. “Such results are possible, if we work hard,” he twitted.
Featured Image: Ethiopian players celebrating a win [Photo File]