Ivory Coast produced a fairytale ending to the most remarkable run at the Africa Cup of Nations as Sebastian Haller’s winner completed a 2-1 comeback win over Nigeria in the final.

The hosts lost two of their group-stage matches, sacked their manager and then pulled off a penalty-shootout victory and a 122nd-minute winner on their way to booking an improbable place in the final.

And yet, just under three weeks after they were hammered 4-0 by Equatorial Guinea to end Jean-Louis Gasset’s reign and leave them on the brink of elimination, Ivory Coast served up another memorable night, this time one that sparked wild celebrations in Abidjan.

They were very much the better side in the opening 45 minutes, but William Troost-Ekong’s header against the run of play gave Nigeria advantage at the break.

The Super Eagles had conceded just two goals on their run to the final and, at the halfway stage, looked destined to grind out another narrow win.

That tally for Nigeria would be doubled though, as Ivory Coast first drew level and then moved in front themselves.

Franck Kessie powered home a header of his from a set-piece in the hour mark, and Haller then completed the turnaround with ten minutes remaining as he flicked a brilliant finish into the far corner, after yet more superb work from Simon Adingra.

Nigeria pushed for a late equaliser to send the match into extra time, but there was to be no more late drama in a tournament that had served up plenty. Ivory Coast held firm, lifting the AFCON trophy for a third time.

Ivory Coast produced a fairytale ending to a truly remarkable run at the Africa Cup of Nations as Sebastian Haller’s winner completed a 2-1 comeback win over Nigeria in the final.

The hosts lost two of their group-stage matches, sacked their manager, and needed a penalty-shootout victory and then a 122nd-minute winner on their way to booking an improbable place in the AFCON final.

And yet, just under three weeks after they were hammered 4-0 by Equatorial Guinea to end Jean-Louis Gasset’s reign and leave them on the brink of elimination, Ivory Coast served up another memorable night, this time one that sparked wild celebrations in Abidjan. The Elephants, through to knockout stages as the worst of the four third-placed teams to progress, are kings of the continent for the first time since 2015.

February 12, 2024

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