Côte d’Ivoire Topples Nigeria and Wins AfCON 2024!

What a team! Côte d’Ivoire were still in a tricky position in Sunday’s AfCON final, trailing Nigeria by a single goal, but they turned things around (2-1) to claim the third continental trophy in their history. Kessié (62nd) and Haller (82nd), already heroes of the semi-final, sealed the match. Nigeria will regret their wait-and-see attitude after Troost-Ekong’s goal (39th).

The dream of an entire nation came true on February 11, 2024 in Abidjan. In an astonishing scenario, Côte d’Ivoire faced the headwinds to take their revenge against Nigeria in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations (2-1). Faced with a solid and realistic Super Eagles side in the first half, the Elephants equalised through Franck Kessié before taking the lead with a goal from the boot of Sébastien Haller. This is the third AfCON won by the Ivorian soccer team in its history, after 1992 and 2015, but above all the first on home soil. A fabulous end to a remarkable tournament.

Let’s be honest: who was expecting Cote d’Ivoire to win the Africa Cup of Nations just after the rout they suffered against Equatorial Guinea at the Stade Alassane Ouattara in the first round? Apart from the team’s least objective fans, no one did. During the competition, head coach Jean-Louis Gasset was sacked, leaving his assistant Emerse Faé with the delicate task of saving a team on the brink of collapse. Three weeks later, it was in the same Alassane Ouattara stadium that the Ivorians finally won the final of the continental tournament. From chaos to euphoria to repeated miracles, the Ivorians will be able to embroider a third star on their jersey, and it looks like a fairy tale.

Adingra, a double decisive passer

Right from the start of this final, Côte d’Ivoire had decided not to take things lying down, as has too often been the case since the start of the competition. Max-Alain Gradel missed the target with an overhead scissor-kick (21st), then Simon Adingra forced Stanley Nwabali into a reflex save (34th). In the face of the home side’s domination, Nigeria bent backwards, only to react better. On his first shot on target of the match, William Troost-Ekong outclassed Serge Aurier in the air before beating Yahia Fofana with a header off the underside of the bar (38th, 0-1).

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Trailing at half-time, the host nation thought they were reliving their defeat by the same opponents in the group phase. But if ever there was a national team that isn’t afraid of conceding the first goal of a match to win the AfCON, it’s Côte d’Ivoire.

After Senegal in the Round of 16 and Mali in the quarters, Nigeria suffered the same fate against a team buoyed by a transcendent crowd. From a corner kick by Adingra, Nwabali changed his mind before finally conceding the equaliser from Franck Kessié’s furious header (62nd, 1-1). The Côte d’Ivoire stadium gradually turned into a graveyard for José Peseiro and his men.

Progressively dominant in the opposing penalty area, Haller missed the target with an acrobatic overhead kick (74th), but won his duel with Troost-Ekong to head home Adingra’s cross and score the winner (81st, 2-1). It had been seventeen years since a host country had won the AfCON. And judging by the emotions involved, it had been far too long.

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