HomeNewsIvory Coast Stun Nigeria with Comeback Victory to Lift AFCON Trophy

Ivory Coast Stun Nigeria with Comeback Victory to Lift AFCON Trophy

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The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) came to a thrilling conclusion on Saturday night, as host nation Ivory Coast rallied from a goal down to beat Nigeria 2-1 in the final at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan. The Elephants secured their third continental title and their first since 2015, while the Super Eagles were denied a fourth AFCON glory.

The match was a rematch of the group stage encounter, which Nigeria had won 1-0 thanks to a penalty by William Troost-Ekong. However, this time, the Ivorians turned the tables on their rivals with a spirited performance that delighted the home crowd of 60,000 fans.

Nigeria took the lead in the 38th minute when Troost-Ekong headed in a corner from Ademola Lookman. The defender celebrated his second goal of the tournament and his second against Ivory Coast, but his joy was short-lived.

The hosts equalized in the 62nd minute when Franck Kessie rose above the Nigerian defense to nod in a corner from Max Gradel. The AC Milan midfielder, who was named the player of the tournament, scored his third goal of the competition and sparked a wave of euphoria among the Ivorian supporters.

The momentum shifted in favor of the Elephants, who pressed for the winner and found it in the 78th minute. Sebastien Haller, who had missed the first three games of the AFCON due to an ankle injury, latched onto a through ball from Nicolas Pepe and slotted it past the Nigerian goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali. The Ajax striker, who had also scored in the semi-final against DR Congo, became the hero of the night and the nation.

Nigeria tried to respond in the remaining minutes, but could not find a way past the resolute Ivorian defense. The final whistle sparked scenes of jubilation among the players, the coaching staff, and the fans, who had witnessed history being made.

Ivory Coast became the first host nation to win the AFCON since Egypt in 2006, and the sixth overall. They also matched Nigeria’s record of three AFCON titles, having previously won in 1992 and 2015.

The victory was even more remarkable considering the turbulent start of the tournament for the Ivorians, who had sacked their coach Patrice Beaumelle after losing their first two group games to Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. They then appointed former captain Kolo Toure as the interim coach, who guided them to a remarkable turnaround.

The Ivorians beat defending champions Senegal on penalties in the round of 16, then came from behind to beat Mali 2-1 in extra time in the quarter-finals, before edging out DR Congo 1-0 in the semi-finals.

Nigeria, on the other hand, had a smooth run to the final, topping their group with seven points and keeping four clean sheets in a row. They beat Cameroon 2-0 in the round of 16, Angola 1-0 in the quarter-finals, and South Africa 4-2 on penalties in the semi-finals.

However, they could not overcome the Ivorian challenge in the final and had to settle for the runners-up spot for the fifth time in their history. They last won the AFCON in 2013 and were aiming to join Egypt, Cameroon, and Ghana as the only four-time winners of the tournament.

The final was watched by millions of viewers across Africa and the world, as the AFCON 2023 was widely praised as one of the best editions of the tournament in recent memory. The competition featured a record number of goals (119), shocks (such as Comoros reaching the quarter-finals and Equatorial Guinea thrashing Ivory Coast 4-0), and drama (such as the penalty shootouts and the extra-time goals).

The AFCON 2023 also showcased the talent and diversity of African football, as players from different leagues and backgrounds competed for the ultimate prize. The tournament also served as a platform for social and political issues, such as the fight against racism, corruption, and inequality.

The next edition of the AFCON will take place in 2025 and will be hosted by Guinea, who had originally been awarded the 2023 hosting rights but swapped with Ivory Coast due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The draw for the qualifiers will be held later this year, and the 24 teams that will participate in the tournament will be determined by March 2025.

Source: Business Day

 

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