AFCON 2017: Reigning champion Ivory Coast eliminated in group stages

    Joy and despair: Morocco's players celebrate, while the Ivory Coast's Wilfried Kanon sinks to the turf.

    Story highlights

    • Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast
    • Togo 1-3 DR Congo

    (CNN)Two years ago, Herve Renard cemented his place in Ivorian folklore by leading the country's golden generation to Africa Cup of Nations glory in Equatorial Guinea.

    Now, however, the Frenchman was tasked with eliminating his former employers as his new side, Morocco, looked to cement a place in the knockout stage.
      Ivory Coast, knowing only a win would see it qualify for the quarterfinals, will have entered the match with a comforting feeling of déjà vu.
      On their way to lifting the trophy in 2015, the Elephants also drew their first two group games and went into the third knowing anything less than victory would see them eliminated.
      But recent history hasn't been kind to reigning AFCON champions. Not since Egypt qualified for the quarterfinals in 2010 has a team defending its crown made it out of the group stages.
      Ivory Coast, eager to break that curse, started the match on the front foot.
      Morocco's Mehdi Benatia, who so far during AFCON 2017 has fallen short of his own high standards, gifted an enthusiastic Saloman Kalou possession by the touchline, but the Hertha Berlin striker was smothered before he could get a cross away.
      The Atlas Lions knew a draw would likely be enough to see them advance, but hadn't tasted victory over the Ivory Coast since November 1994.
      Fayçal Fajr -- who has been Morocco's most creative player during the tournament -- hit a brilliant free-kick from 20 yards, but could only watch as his effort rattled the underside of the crossbar with Sylvain Gbohouo well beaten.
      After almost half an hour, it was the first real chance of note the two obviously nervous sides continued to feel each other out.
      With less than 10 minutes left of the first half, the Ivory Coast almost found a breakthrough.
      Delightful footwork from Kalou played in Wilfred Zaha down the left, but the Crystal Palace forward could only place his shot comfortably within Mohan Mohamedi's reach.
      For a team that desperately needed a win, the Ivory Coast lacked any glimmer of intensity or creativity and coach Michel Dussuyer -- who has come in for heavy criticism during the competition -- needed to ensure his half-time team talk was a rousing one.
      However, with barely a minute played in the second half, Gbohouo flapped at a cross and teed up Benatia on the edge of the area, but the Juventus defender could only float his lob well over the bar.
      In a match that had so far severely lacked any semblance of quality, it seemed strange that a moment of genius would eventually be the difference between the sides.
      Substitute Rachid Alioui, on in the first half to replace the injured Aziz Bouhaddouz, received the ball from lively teenager Youssef En-Nesyri.
      Rather than play an immediate return pass, which looked the most effective option, Alioui stopped the ball and took aim from all of 30 yards.
      With Gbohouo off his line, Alioui's shot curled over the keeper's despairing dive and the ball nestled in the top corner of the net for arguably the goal of the tournament.
      The Ivory Coast had 25 minutes to find two goals, though in truth lacked the necessary cutting edge to seriously trouble Mohamedi at all in the second half.
      With Morocco booking safe passage through to the quarterfinals, Renard remains on course to become the first manager in history to win the Africa Cup of Nations with three difference countries.