Abidjan, (CIV):- Sebastien Haller was the man of the night on Sunday as Ivory Coast made history winning the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations champions, their third and becoming the first host nation to lift the trophy since Egypt in 2006.
In a gripping final held at Alassane Ouattara Stadium, the Elephants triumphed over Nigeria with a dramatic 2-1 victory, showcasing resilience and determination.
The match unfolded with William Troost-Ekong granting the Super Eagles a first-half lead, thanks to a fine header with just minutes to the break.
However, Franck Kessie levelled the score just after the hour mark, setting the stage for a nail-biting conclusion.
With just 9 minutes to the full-time whistle, Borussia Dortmund’s Sebastien Haller, returning to the pitch after a hiatus due to a cancer diagnosis in 2022, sealed the win with a decisive goal throwing the Super Eagles into an autumn of panic.
Ivory Coast’s Fairytale
Ivory Coast’s journey to the championship was anything but smooth. Despite losing two of their three group-stage games, including a 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea, they advanced to the knockout phase as one of the best third-placed teams.
The sacking of head coach Jean-Louis Gasset following the group stage losses paved the way for assistant Emerse Fae to take the reins as interim manager. Fae orchestrated an incredible run through the knockout rounds, guiding the team to the ultimate triumph in the final.
Awaiting Ivory Coast in the final were familiar foes, Nigeria, who had previously defeated them 1-0 during the group stage.
The Super Eagles, a relatively consistent side throughout the tournament, secured their place in the final after overcoming 10-man South Africa in a penalty shootout during the semifinals, following strong performances that included a 2-0 win over Cameroon, one of the pre-tournament favourites.
In a fitting conclusion, Simon Adingra emerged as the Total Energies Man of the Match, showcasing a final masterpiece that contributed significantly to Ivory Coast’s historic victory.
The 2023 AFCON final will be remembered as a thrilling contest that highlighted the resilience, determination, and skill of both teams, ultimately solidifying Ivory Coast’s place in football history.
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