Ivory Coast emerged victorious, defeating Nigeria 2-1 with
Sebastien Haller once again playing hero after scoring the decisive goal in extra time yesterday.
The match, held in Abidjan, saw hosts, Ivory Coats register third title adding to their penalty shoot-out wins in 1992 and 2015.
The game kicked off with both teams displaying attacking intent. Nigeria, known for their pace and flair, pressed high, while Ivory Coast focused on solid defending.
In the 38th minute, Nigeria drew first blood with captain William Troost-Ekong capitalizing on a defensive lapse and slotted the ball past the Ivory Coast stopper, sending the Super Eagles’ fans into a frenzy.
The first half ended with Nigeria leading 1-0, but Ivory Coast remained resolute, determined to turn the tide.
The intensity escalated after the break. Ivory Coast’s coach, Emerse Fae, made crucial tactical adjustments, urging his players to push forward.
In the 62nd minute, Ivory Coast equalized. A beautifully executed team move saw Wilfried Zaha deliver a precise cross, and Franck Kesssie rose above the Nigerian defense to head the ball into the net.
The stadium erupted as the scoreline read 1-1. Extra time loomed, and both sides fought tooth and nail.
As fatigue set in, Ivory Coast seized the moment. In the dying minutes of extra time, Sébastien Haller became the hero after latching onto a perfectly timed through ball, trounced the Nigerian defenders, and calmly slotted the ball past the goalkeeper.
The stadium went a buzz as the final whistle blew, sending the Ivorians into celebrations.
Speaking shortly after the match, Ivory Coast Coach, Emerse Fae dedicated the victory to the host Nation, “This victory is for our nation, our fans, and the players who gave their all.” said Fae
“Nigeria pushed us to the limit, but our unity and spirit prevailed. We are AFCON champions!” added Fae.
Ivory Coast scripted a thrilling comeback in the final against Nigeria despite a rocky start.
In the semi-finals, Ivory Coast secured a hard-fought 1-0 victory over DR Congo, earning a spot in the final.