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Ivory Coast 2-1 Nigeria (Feb 11, 2024) Game Analysis

Ivory Coast have won the Africa Cup of Nations after a 2-1 victory over Nigeria at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Sunday.

Sébastien Haller scored the winning goal for the hosts in the 81st minute with an instinctive finish after excellent work from Simon Adingra on the wing.

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William Troost-Ekong had given Nigeria the lead in the first half with a header from a dangerous corner routine. A front-post scramble between several players saw the original delivery loop into the air, and the Nigeria captain leapt to head the ball into the net.

Franck Kessié equalised from an Adingra corner in the 62nd minute, before Haller’s late intervention decided the fate of the tournament.

“It’s the power of the group and the mindset that put us through. We had some challenging moments but we rescued ourselves, although it wasn’t easy. The mental fortitude saw us restore our chances and do what we achieved today,” Ivorian man of the match Adingra said after the game.

Borussia Dortmund forward Haller was diagnosed with testicular cancer in July 2022 but beat the disease and has been a crucial player for the Ivorians, though he missed the start of the tournament with an ankle injury, playing his first game in the round-of-16 win over defending champions Senegal.

Sébastien Haller’s goal was his second of the tournament.

Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images

It marks Ivory Coast’s third AFCON triumph, bringing them level with Nigeria as the joint-fourth most successful team in tournament history, and first since 2015. Only Ghana (4), Cameroon (5) and Egypt (7) have more. It is the fifth time Nigeria have fallen short at the final hurdle of the competition.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino was in attendance at the final, as was Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba.

The result is all the more remarkable given Ivory Coast’s victorious coach, Emerse Faé, only took over as coach after the group stage. Veteran Frenchman Jean-Louis Gasset was the manager at the start of the competition, but saw his team lose two of three games in that preliminary round to fall to the brink of elimination. They would eventually qualify as one of the best third-placed teams.

Ivory Coast enjoyed the better of the first half, perhaps unsurprisingly given the sea of orange in the stands and the midfield duo of Seko Fofana and Jean Michaël Seri controlling the tempo.

However, Nigeria took the lead against the run of play in the 38th minute through Troost-Ekong’s header, the Super Eagles’ first effort on goal of the match.

Ivory Coast almost hit back early in the second half, when a bouncing ball fell to the feet of Max Gradel at point-blank range — only to see his effort locked by the left leg of Calvin Bassey and roll harmlessly into the hands of Stanley Nwabali.

Eventually the pressure told, with Ivory Coast scoring from a corner of their own to square proceedings and send the entire stadium — including Drogba — into rapturous celebrations. Kessié took advantage of some suspect marking to direct a corner goalwards, and it slipped through the hands of Nwabali into the goal.

The home side continued to push for the winner and came close when Haller attempted a spectacular overhead kick, but the ball flashed wide of goal.

The all-important goal arrived after Adingra beat Ola Aina and delivered a pacy cross. Haller met the delivery from the left with a deft touch which arrowed into the bottom right corner of the net. 

Nigeria threw caution to the wind for the rest of the game, with Portuguese coach José Peseiro sending on several attacking substitutes to support Victor Osimhen, who toiled up front on his own for large swathes of the hot evening.

But the hosts’ defence held firm to secure a famous victory that no doubt will have Abidjan and beyond partying long into the night.

“Our team had a fantastic tournament but today Ivory Coast was better,” Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro said. “Our team didn’t show our level. That’s the truth. It was not the same job as we did in the previous rounds.”

Information from Reuters contributed to this report.

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