The African Women's Championship (AWC) in Namibia was only the second time in the history of the competition that Côte d'Ivoire qualified for the showpiece event of women's continental football. Les Elephantes stunned holders Equatorial Guinea in the qualifying rounds, advancing on the away goal rule after 2-2 and 1-1 draws. But unlike their first appearance in Equatorial Guinea in 2012, the west Africans managed to escape the group phase this time around.
A victory against the hosts Namibia, a draw against Zambia and a defeat against Nigeria were good enough to see Clementine Toure's side finish second in the group behind the Nigerians. They were then beaten in extra-time by Cameroon and faced South Africa in the all-important play-off for third place, with the winner booking the final place for the FIFA World Cup finals in Canada. Although Banyana Banyana dominated most of the game, they failed to score, allowing the Ivorians to snatch victory through Ida Guehai's late goal five minutes from the end.
Unlike Africa's two other World Cup qualifiers, Cameroon and Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire is a side without any real star players – the success being built on team effort rather than individual skill. A perfect example of the resilience the entire team shows was in the third place play-off, when Les Elephantes withstood a barrage of South African attacks only to snatch victory with a goal five minutes from time.
The majority of Clementine Traore's squad play their club football in their home country, with Josee Nahi an exception. Nahi played in the UEFA Champions League this season with some success, scoring four goals as her Russian club Zvesda Perm qualified for the second round with a 5-2 victory against Stjarnan.
Clementine Toure led the Ivorians to a third place finish at the second appearance at the finals of the African Women's Championship. She arrived in Namibia with plenty of AWC experience, having previously been a member of the Equatorial Guinea coaching staff in 2008 when they sensationally won the tournament at home.
FIFA Women's World Cup record
- This is Côte d'Ivoire's first appearance at a senior Women's World Cup.
What they said
"We had been waiting for this moment for such a long time. What the girls achieved in Namibia is fantastic. It is a historic achievement - the first time Côte d'Ivoire has reached the World Cup. We have to thank the federation, who believed in us and in the team, but also the Ivorians for their prayers," Clementine Toure, Côte d'Ivoire coach