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Africa U23 Cup of Nations

U23 Afcon: Ghana's Olympic dream put on hold by Cote D'Ivoire 

9:08 PM GMT+4 19/11/2019
Fidel Escobar of Panama and Yaw Yeboah of Ghana
The Black Meteors will have to wait until Friday to make a last bid for a place at the world gathering following a loss on Tuesday 

Ghana's hopes of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games suffered a setback after a penalty shoot-out defeat to Cote d'Ivoire in the semi-final of the Africa U23 Cup of Nations in Egypt.

After a 2-2 draw in extra-time time, following a Youssouf Dao double for the young Elephants and replies from Yaw Yeboah and Evans Mensah, the game headed into penalties where Soualiho Haidara's men registered a 3-2 win.

Cote d'Ivoire have secured one of Africa's three tickets for next year's Olympic Games in Japan but Ghana will have to fight it out in Friday's third-place play-off against the losers of the Egypt-South Africa semi-final for the last slot.

Ghana named an unchanged line-up for Tuesday's game as Kwabena Owusu was again relegated to the bench despite scoring twice as a substitute to send the Black Meteors into the last four.

Cote d'Ivoire, on the other hand, had to do without captain Ibrahim Sangare and striker Christian Kouame, who have both been ruled out of the rest of the tournament.

The Ivorians had an early chance on goal as Dao drove a shot from inside the box wide following a corner routine.

The Czech Republic-based striker would not be denied eight minutes later, beating goalkeeper Kwame Baah with a close-range effort after being picked out by Hamed Junior Traore.

It was all Cote d'Ivoire at this point as a through ball was sent to Cheick Timite but the onrushing Baah reacted quickly to save the shot.

Five minutes later, Dao missed a sitter as he shot wide from just six yards after receiving a Traore cut-back.

Baah was again called into action in the 26th minute, this time by a long-range effort from Traore. Then Ismael Diallo headed a corner just over the bar and Timite saw a penalty shout ignored.

Ghana's first real chance on goal came on the stroke of half-time when Owusu, who came on for the ineffective Robin Polley in the 27th minute, fired a shot wide from inside the box after a neat pick-out by Yeboah.

Six minutes after the break, Ghana levelled the score through Yeboah, who smashed a shot into the net after Samuel Obeng Gyabaa delivered a cut-back in the box.

In the 62nd minute, Cote d'Ivoire went close to goal again but Koffi Dakoi's glancing header went wide.

After Michael Agbekpornu tested Ivorian goalkeeper Iran Eliezer Tape with a long-range drive, the young Elephants went back on top at the other end as Dao's diving header flew straight into the net, the striker having connected with a Silas Gnaka in-swinger. 

But Ghana would hit back at the death.

After the referee waved on an Owusu penalty shout, the striker, sprawling on the ground, managed to lay off a pass to Mensah, who rifled a shot from inside the box into the net in injury time to force the game into extra-time.

In the 108th minute, Mensah showed up once again, this time lifting a ball to Obeng to knock home but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Moments later, Obeng drove into the box but his final shot was no trouble at all for goalkeeper Tape. Then Aboubacar Doumbia hit a loose ball in the Ghana penalty box over the bar.

One minute later, Dao's poked shot in the box was warmly collected by goalkeeper Baah, shortly before the referee whistled to send the game into a penalties.

In the shoot-out, Emmanuel Cudjoe, Mensah and Owusu failed to find the target as Cote d'Ivoire run away with a 3-2 triumph.