Sebastien Haller secures Ivory Coast's AFCON Title with late winner against Nigeria in the final
Sebastien Haller's dramatic late goal propelled Ivory Coast to a 2-1 victory over Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final.
In a captivating turn of events, Sebastien Haller scored a decisive late goal, leading Ivory Coast to a 2-1 victory over Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations final on Sunday. This triumph marks Ivory Coast's third continental title, completing an extraordinary comeback in the tournament. Despite Nigeria initially taking the lead with captain William Troost-Ekong's goal, Franck Kessie equalised in the 61st minute, and Haller clinched the victory in the 81st minute.
Ivory Coast's success in this year's final, adding to their victories in 1992 and 2015, now positions them alongside Nigeria with three Cup of Nations triumphs overall. Despite Nigeria's formidable performance, Ivory Coast's determination proved to be overpowering, making them the first host country to win the AFCON since 2006.
Coach Emerse Fae, who took charge of the team mid-tournament, expressed the magnitude of the achievement, calling it "greater than a fairytale" and emphasizing their status as "miracle survivors."
The victory is particularly remarkable considering Ivory Coast's precarious position after a 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea in the group stage. Following their heaviest home defeat, the team underwent a significant turnaround under Fae's leadership, overcoming challenges to eliminate holders Senegal, secure a last-minute win against Mali, and edge out DR Congo in the semi-finals with a goal from Haller.
The AFCON final was witnessed by a packed stadium with a capacity of 60,000, showcasing the overwhelming support for the home team. Although Cup of Nations finals tend to be low-scoring, this match defied expectations with thrilling moments.
Ivory Coast's resilience was evident as they regrouped after falling behind against Nigeria. Notable moments include Max-Alain Gradel's shot blocked by Calvin Bassey and goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali's crucial saves. Kessie's goal from a corner levelled the score, setting the stage for Haller's game-winning contribution with a header from Adingra's cross.
The victory not only solidifies Ivory Coast's place in AFCON history but also reflects their remarkable journey from the brink of elimination to becoming champions. Nigeria's coach, Jose Peseiro, acknowledged Ivory Coast's superiority and expressed sadness for his team, noting their maximum effort in the match.