Two-time African champions Côte d’Ivoire beat Niger 3-0 in Niamey on Friday to book a ticket to next year’s Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon.
Defender Serge Aurier put up a superb display, scoring a goal and assisting two as the Elephants trampled Niger, whose dream of qualification was extinguished as they are bottom of Group K with three points.
Côte d’Ivoire move to the apex of the group with 10 points and having beaten third placed Madagascar and drawn the corresponding fixture, their ticket is safe and secure.
The islanders who were the revelation of the tournament in their debut in Egypt 2019 must now beat Niger in their final match on Tuesday and hope the Ivorians beat Ethiopia.
The latter need only one point away to Ivory Coast to qualify for Cameroon, regardless of the result Madagascar post against Niger.
The Ivorians ensured no final day jitters after putting up an assured performance in Niamey to collect three points and a healthy win.
After a tight start to the game with both teams fighting for possession, the Ivorians got into the lead after 25 minutes when Aurier hit the back of the net.
The defender reacted fastest after Niger keeper Kassaly Daouda punched Eric Bailly’s shot into his path. The Manchester United defender had taken a first time effort when Fousseny Coulibaly knocked down the ball into his path off a corner.
The Ivorians doubled their lad in the 34th minute, this time Aurier turning from scorer to provider, floating in a cross from the right that was volleyed home at the back post by Max Gradel.
The Elephants continued with their attacking forays in the second half with Nicolas Pepe seeing a freekick from outside the area go just over six minutes after the restart.
In the 59th minute, the Ivorians were 3-0 up and it was that man Aurier again who played a vital role again, delivering a well curled freekick into the area which was duly headed home by Wilfried Kanon.
With victory looking secure and a place in Cameroon all but assured, the Ivorians controlled the tempo of the game, keeping possession and carefully guarding their rear to protect the result.