Ivory Coast jinx strikes again

2014-06-25 08:58

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A contentious refereeing decision has eliminated the Ivory Coast from the World Cup, extending a calamitous record at tournaments for a golden generation of players who must now feel permanently jinxed.

The Africans were just minutes from achieving their aim of going through to the second round yesterday when a controversial call gave opponents Greece a stoppage-time penalty, which Georgios Samaras converted to put the European side through with a 2-1 win.

Ivory Coast needed only a draw in Fortaleza to advance for the first time in their third successive World Cup appearance and at long last confirm the potential of their star-studded squad.

Instead, they head home crestfallen once again.

“The end result is cruel even if the Greeks deserved this victory,” coach Sabri Lamouchi said.

“We could have had the match stopped one minute earlier. We saw that everything is in the details. It’s very tough, very hard. There’s a lot of disappointment and frustration for me. The whole squad made a lot of effort.”

Not only did the tournament in Brazil offer the chance for the Ivorians to write history, it also offered redemption after several disappointing tournaments previously.

Since 2006, they have been the overwhelming favourites at successive African Nations Cup finals, but have not been able to lift the title.

They lost on penalties in the 2006 and 2012 finals and were dumped out in the knockout round in 2008, 2010 and last year.

It has earned the Ivorians the moniker of “chokers” across the continent for their perceived propensity to fail within sight of victory.

But there was little sign of timidness in their performance yesterday as they came from behind to level with just more than a quarter-hour to go and looked to be on their way to a piece of history before calamity struck.

Disappointment in Brazil could persuade the likes of Didier Drogba, Kolo and Yaya Touré and Didier Zokora to stay on for just one last tilt at glory – at the 2015 African Nations Cup in Morocco in six months.

“There are six players who’ve played three World Cups and four who’ve played twice. I’m very sad for all of those who made a lot of effort ... They worked a lot and have no reason to quit,” said Lamouchi, who will not be in Morocco because his contract is not being renewed.

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