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Afcon 2023: Nigeria 1-2 Ivory Coast – Haller wins final for Elephants

  • February 12, 2024

Sebastien Haller was the hero for Ivory Coast again as the Elephants came from behind to beat Nigeria and win the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final on home soil.

William Troost-Ekong had put Nigeria ahead seven minutes before the end of a cagey first half when the centre-back rose highest to powerfully head in from nine yards out following a corner.

Franck Kessie nodded in the equaliser in the 62nd minute when he was left unmarked at the back post from Adingra’s corner.

After a remarkable run to the final, which included the departure of coach Jean-Louis Gasset after two defeats in the group stage, the Ivorians clinched a third continental title with a deserved victory.

The West Africans add to their previous Nations Cup wins in 1992 and 2015 and become the first tournament hosts to triumph since Egypt lifted the trophy in 2006.

Interim coach Emerse Fae masterminded Ivory Coast’s passage through the knockout stages, which included dramatic victories over defending champions Senegal and Mali after late equalisers in both games.

Ivory Coast spent more than $1bn (£0.79bn) on hosting the tournament, investing a similar amount on improving infrastructure in the country, and Ivorian President Alassane Outtara joined in the post-match celebrations in the stadium bearing his name.

The Elephants pick up $7m (£5.54m) in prize money, with Nigeria handed $4m by the Confederation of African Football.

Nigeria, three-time continental champions themselves, had previously been unbeaten at the finals, including a 1-0 win over the Ivorians in the group stage, but the Super Eagles rarely imposed themselves after sitting back for most of the contest.

Adingra inspires Elephants turnaround

Sebastien Haller scores for Ivory Coast against Nigeria in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final
Sebastien Haller (left) had also scored the winner for Ivory Coast in their semi-final win over DR Congo

Ivory Coast dominated most of the first half in front of a fervent crowd at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium, but failed to carve out chances as Nigeria sat deep and soaked up pressure.

The game sparked into life after the drinks break on the half-hour mark, with Nigeria goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali blocking Adingra’s shot from a narrow angle before Nigeria left-back Zaidu Sanusi won a corner when his effort was blocked by Odilon Kossounou.

Ademola Lookman’s inswinging corner was headed up into the air by Ivory Coast midfielder Jean Michael Seri at the near post, and Troost-Ekong leapt above Serge Aurier to guide the ball back across goal and past the despairing dive of Elephants keeper Yahia Fofana.

The Ivorians came out with renewed purpose after the break, with the lively Adingra at the heart of their best moments on the left flank.

A dangerous low cross from the Brighton winger was tipped away by Nwabali and Calvin Bassey made a crucial block to prevent an equaliser after Max Gradel pounced on the loose ball.

Nwabali then had to dive to his right to scramble a long-range shot from Kossounou wide, and the Elephants equalised from the resulting corner as the Nigeria defence somehow failed to pick up Kessie.

The Super Eagles had a chance to retake the lead when Troost-Ekong headed a free-kick from Ademola Lookman wide, but the decisive moment came from an inspired finish by Haller when the Borussia Dortmund man stuck out his right leg to flick Adingra’s cross past Nwabali.

Fairy tale ending for Fae

Ivory Coast players celebrate with the Africa Cup of Nations trophy after beating Nigeria
Emerse Fae (far right, in white) coached Nice’s youth teams and was the reserve team of French Ligue 1 club Clermont before becoming Ivory Coast’s assistant coach in May 2022

The tournament, which was delayed from its intended staging in June and July last year because of weather concerns in West Africa, will live long in the memory after a record number of goals, unrelenting upsets and an apparent capacity for unceasing drama.

Much of that was provided by the hosts, who had appeared on the brink of an early exit after a shock 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea in their final Group A outing.

Gasset departed as coach and Fae managed to instil renewed belief after inheriting a side which were given a second life as one of four best-ranked third-placed sides.

Progress had been secured after Morocco – whose national flag Ivory Coast co-captain Max Gradel waved before lifting the trophy – beat Zambia in the final round of group games to stop the southern Africans stealing their spot.

Elephants supporters had understandably been left reeling after what was a record defeat at home but rallied behind a side which showed incredible mental fortitude to eliminate Senegal and Mali in two epic ties, prior to a far more routine victory against DR Congo in the semi-finals.

Fae, who was part of the Ivory Coast side that finished runners-up to Egypt in 2006 – a campaign in which he played every minute, has now won Africa’s biggest prize in just his fourth game in senior management.

The resilience of the 40-year-old’s side was underlined as the hosts held their nerve after falling behind against the run of play in front of a sea of orange in the final.

Ivory Coast become the 12 host nation to win the Nations Cup title, while Nigeria will be left to rue a fifth defeat in the showpiece game – and their second in Abidjan after losing to Cameroon in 1984.

Line-ups

Nigeria

Formation 3-4-2-1

  • 23NwabaliBooked at 53mins
  • 6Ajayi
  • 5Troost-Ekong
  • 21Bassey
  • 2AinaBooked at 90mins
  • 8OnyekaSubstituted forMoffiat 86′minutes
  • 17IwobiSubstituted forYusufat 79′minutes
  • 3SanusiSubstituted forAriboat 86′minutes
  • 11ChukwuezeSubstituted forSimonat 56′minutes
  • 18LookmanSubstituted forIheanachoat 79′minutes
  • 9Osimhen

Substitutes

  • 1Uzoho
  • 4Yusuf
  • 7Musa
  • 10Aribo
  • 12Osayi-Samuel
  • 14Iheanacho
  • 15Simon
  • 19Onuachu
  • 20Awaziem
  • 22Omeruo
  • 24Moffi
  • 25Onyedika

Ivory Coast

Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Fofana
  • 17AurierBooked at 54minsSubstituted forSingoat 70′minutes
  • 7Kossounou
  • 21NdickaBooked at 90mins
  • 3Konan
  • 8Kessié
  • 4SeriSubstituted forAmaniat 90+2′minutes
  • 6FofanaBooked at 87minsSubstituted forSangaréat 88′minutes
  • 15GradelSubstituted forDiakitéat 70′minutes
  • 22HallerSubstituted forKrassoat 88′minutes
  • 24Adingra

Substitutes

  • 2Diomande
  • 5Singo
  • 9Bamba
  • 11Krasso
  • 13Boga
  • 14Diakité
  • 18Sangaré
  • 19Pépé
  • 20Kouamé
  • 23Sangaré
  • 26Diallo
  • 27Amani

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