The humiliating 4-0 loss by Ivory Coast to Equatorial Guinea at Stadium Olympic Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan on Monday, January 22, 2024, left tongues wagging across the globe—among them, that of Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat.
The final Group A match that pitted the two sides saw Guinea captain Emilio Nsue striking on either half of the break to complete his brace and bring Ivory Coast within the callous jaws of group stage elimination.
This was the heaviest home defeat in the history of the Elephants and it cost head coach Jean-Louis Gasset his job, with his assistant, Emerse Fae, taking over as interim coach after a failed attempt to loan two-time AFCON winner Herve Renard from the France national women’s football team.
Harambee Stars are paired in Group F for the Africa World Cup qualifiers, alongside Ivory Coast, Gabon, Gambia, Burundi, and Seychelles. Kenya hosts Ivory Coast on June 10, 2024, in their fourth qualifier for the 2026 World Cup.
After the humiliating defeat against Equatorial Guinea, Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat confidently said his lads can beat the Elephants as they seek their first-ever ticket to the global showpiece.
“Their subpar performance at AFCON is a result of their inability to handle pressure. I believe we can pull a surprise on them if we concentrate and have a good plan since I already know their weakness,” Firat said at the time.
However, Ivory Coast were handed a lifeline after Morocco, having already qualified, defeated Zambia 1-0 in their final group F match on Wednesday, January 24, 2024.
The Elephants qualified for the last 16 as the last of the four best third-placed teams and triumphed over, among others, defending champions Senegal and finalists Nigeria to win the 2023 AFCON finals—their third in history.
It is not yet clear if Firat still holds the same opinion.