Sebastien Haller’s 81st-minute winner gave Ivory Coast the Afcon (Africa Cup of Nations) 2023 title with a comeback victory over Nigeria and completed a remarkable turnaround for the host nation as stand-in manager Emerse Fae guided them to glory.
Borussia Dortmund striker Haller reached Simon Adingra’s cross with an outstretched boot to decide the final for the side who sacked head coach Jean-Louis Gasset following a dismal group stage which almost eliminated them from the tournament.
William Troost-Ekong had headed the Super Eagles in front seven minutes before the break, but Franck Kessie nodded Ivory Coast level in the 62nd minute to spark wild celebrations at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan.
Ivory Coast only qualified for the knockout stage as the last of the four teams to finish with the best records in third place in their groups.
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Four gutsy wins later, the humiliating 4-0 defeat against Equatorial Guinea with which they closed the group stage – their record home loss – is a distant memory for the champions.
Ivory Coast vs Nigeria: Afcon final win for hosts
Captain Troost-Ekong’s opener was expertly taken, leaping above Serge Aurier to power a precise header into the back of the net and put Nigeria on course for a fourth title.
The inspirational defender’s effort was his country’s only attempt on target of a feisty first half which included an incensed response from Victor Osimhen when the Nigeria striker believed he had been elbowed by Evan Ndicka.
Full-Time: IVORY COAST WIN AFCON 2023! 🏆🇨🇮 pic.twitter.com/th0MhXawzb
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) February 11, 2024
Ivory Coast dominated possession and chances but were denied what looked like being a certain goal when Max Gradel’s shot from a cross by the lively Simon Adingra was blocked by Calvin Bassey.
Brighton winger Adingra was the provider again for the equaliser, finding the unmarked Franck Kessie, who planted a routine header into the back of Nwabali’s net.
Despite African Footballer of the Year Osimhen’s usual craft and endeavour, Nigeria rarely threatened to level on their way to losing a fifth Afcon final.
Jose Peseiro’s players were unbeaten and had seen off South Africa on penalties in the semi-finals, but there was to be no repeat of the late drama which has been a feature of the finals.
Former Reading midfielder Fae had never managed a senior game before the knockout stage began. Now he has made history, guiding his country to a third title and their first since 2015.