Nigeria 1-2 Ivory Coast: Hosts Complete Legendary Tournament Campaign And Win AFCON For Third Time

Published on 12 February 2024 at 20:00

Host nation Ivory Coast have stunned the African footballing world by winning the African Cup of Nations once again, completing a miraculous mid tournament turnaround to upset the favourites Nigeria 2-1 in Sunday night's final, thanks to goals from Franck Kessie and Sebastien Haller.


With high expectations, the Ivory Coast's tournament got off to a slow start: an unconvincing 2-0 win over Guinea followed by a 1-0 loss to future final opponents Nigeria left the hosts in a precarious situation. This was before they were decimated 4-0 by Equatorial Guinea, stunning the 42,000+ in attendance at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium. Stuck in third place only by virtue of their earlier win over Guinea, Ghana and Zambia's premature exits and poor performances afforded Les Elephants a lifeline. 


A rare managerial sacking mid-way through the tournament saw Jean-Louis Gasset removed from the squad and his assistant Emerse Fae promoted ahead of the round of 16 clash against defending champions and one of the pre-tournament favourites; Senegal. Even after the more-fancied team took the lead, there was an increased fire and sense of passion in the Ivory Coast that looked missing in the group stage. Kessie converted a penalty late on to force the game to a decisive shootout, and Senegal, who won the 2021 tournament on penalties, were left bewildered after Niakhate's miss and the host's 100% record from the spot saw the underdogs through.


Drawing parallels to Portugal's success in Euro 2016, only barely scraping through their groups thanks to their third placed ranking and facing some far more in-form teams en-route to the final. Mali awaited in the quarter-finals, and Ivory Coast once again went 1-0 down. Simon Adingra's 90th minute equaliser gave them hope, and Oumar Diakite's last gasp winner had people wondering 'Could the Ivory Coast actually win the AFCON?'


Read More: 2023 AFCON and Asian Cup Final Previews


Both semi-finals saw an established African footballing power face off against a team looking to upset the status quo. Whilst Nigeria needed penalties to scrape past South Africa, the Ivory Coast's game against DR Congo was decidedly more simple, with Haller's second half goal being the difference between the two sides. After a slow start to the tournament, the Dortmund talisman was carrying his country on a story that promised a classic finale. 


And in Sunday's final, the script unfolded almost as predicted. William Troost-Ekong scored a penalty to open the scoring for Nigeria, just like in the group stage game, before two scrappy goals from Kessie and Haller completely upset the balance of the tie and miraculously gave the Ivory Coast the win. 


In a tournament renowned for historical upsets, and for an Ivory Coast team who have faced final heartbreak twice this century, their success in the 2023 AFCON tournament is nothing short of a miracle, and a welcome return to form for one of the continent's long-established big names. 


By Jaspar Shepherdson

(@jasparshepmedia on X/Twitter and Instagram)


Image Credit: Yelika225 on Wikipedia


Add comment


There are no comments yet.