Home Sports AFCON 2023 Final: Nigeria To Slug It Out With Ivory Coast On...

AFCON 2023 Final: Nigeria To Slug It Out With Ivory Coast On Sunday

...Nigeria's Super Eagles...
...Nigeria's Super Eagles...

The Super Eagles of Nigeria will battle the Elephants of Ivory Coast in the final of the ongoing African Cup of Nations in Abidjan on Sunday.

Sebastien Haller was the hero with the only goal of the game as hosts Ivory Coast beat the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 to win through to the final on Wednesday.

Starting for the first time at the tournament following injury, Borussia Dortmund striker Haller connected with a Max-Alain Gradel cross in the 65th minute at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium, his shot looping over the goalkeeper and in.

That was enough to settle a tense but open semi-final showdown, and the Ivorians will now face Nigeria at the same venue on Sunday to decide who takes the title.

The two-time champions are the first host country to reach the final of the Cup of Nations since Egypt in 2006, and the turnaround is absolutely remarkable for a team that was on the brink of elimination in the group stage.

In contrast, it was an agonising defeat for DR Congo, who had been dreaming of a first appearance in an AFCON final since they were champions at Zaire in 1974.

Ivory Coast’s run at the tournament had been described on the eve of this game as “miraculous” by their own interim coach  Emerse Fae, the man who replaced the sacked Jean-Louis Gasset following embarrassing results in the group stage.

Humiliated and on the verge of elimination after a 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea on January 22, this was their first match at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium on Abidjan’s dusty outskirts since then.

The Elephants scraped through to the last 16 as the last of the four best third-placed teams, then ousted reigning champions Senegal on penalties.

They followed that by beating Mali in the quarter-finals — despite playing most of the match with 10 men — with their winner coming in added time in extra time.

Oumar Diakite, the match-winner against Mali, was sent off while celebrating his goal and was suspended here along with captain Serge Aurier, Odilon Kossounou and Christian Kouame.

Among those coming in were Brighton winger Simon Adingra, who got the equaliser against Mali, and Haller, the talismanic forward who was finally fully fit.

DR Congo were looking to avenge their 3-1 defeat by the Ivorians in their last appearance in the AFCON semi-finals, in 2015.

Credit: punchng.com

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