AFCON 2023 REVIEW: The Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire Play Nigeria’s Super Eagles in the Final


Image: CAF Online

Sebastien Haller's Strike Sends Hosts Ivory Coast Into AFCON Final

Ivory Coast’s remarkable run in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations continued on Wednesday night when they defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan.

Sebastien Haller fired hosts Ivory Coast midway through the second half into the final of the Africa Cup of Nations and to within one match of the ultimate redemption after beating DR Congo 1-0 and will now look to become the first team to win the Afcon on home soil since Egypt in 2006.

DR Congo thought they had taken an early lead when Cedric Bakambu headed home from close range in the ninth minute, but the goal was disallowed due to a foul on Ivorian goalkeeper, Fofana.

The Elephants had been on the brink of elimination at the group stage, sacked their manager before being reprieved two days later as the fourth best third-placed finishers. 

They then came back from behind to beat Senegal in the last 16 and needed a 90th-minute equaliser and a winner with the last kick of the match to get past Mali in the quarter-final.

Now Haller’s goal has seen them reach the final for a fifth time and if interim boss Emerse Fae, who replaced Jean-Louis Gasset after the humiliating 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea, can inspire them to victory over Nigeria on Sunday, it will cap surely the most remarkable turn of fortunes in any major international tournament.

Ivory Coast coach Emerse Fae described his team's achievement in winning through to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations as being “like a dream” in the post match press conference.

“We are happy, we're really moved. It's like a dream, when you go back two weeks to the defeat here against Equatorial Guinea,” said Fae.

“It was hard then to imagine that we might qualify for the final of our own AFCON.”

DR Congo will face South Africa in the third-place playoff at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium on Saturday 10 February, while Ivory Coast will face Nigeria in the final at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium on Sunday 11 February.

Nigeria Beat South Africa On Penalties 

Nigeria reached an eighth Africa Cup of Nations final for the first time since 2013 after winning a VAR drama-fuelled semi-final clash with South Africa on penalties.

Goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali was the hero for Nigeria after he saved efforts by Teboho Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa in a 4-2 shoot-out win.

Super Eagles took the lead through William Troost-Ekong's penalty in the 67th minute before Teboho Mokoena converted a late spot-kick for Bafana Bafana in the 90th minute to keep their hopes alive.

Nigeria thought they had booked their place in the final when Victor Osimhen tapped home in the 85th minute to add to William Troost-Ekong’s second-half penalty, but referee Amin Omar was told to intervene.

A review of the goal showed South Africa’s Percy Tau had been fouled inside the penalty area at the start of the move and the score went from 2-0 to Nigeria to 1-1 when Mokoena made no mistake from 12 yards.

South Africa could have won the tie at the death had Khuliso Mudau not fired his shot over the crossbar with only Nwabali to beat in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

South Africa coach Hugo Broos says he is proud of his side despite their heartbreaking semifinal loss to Nigeria on post-match penalties at the Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast.

“Football can be hard sometimes, when you see the performance of my team, and then there is penalties, and then you lose the penalties and you are not in the finals, it’s hard to accept that because we play very good game,” Broos said.

“I think we were the best team in the first half, we got the best chances, Nigeria didn’t have any chance. Second half they have few chances which resulted in a goal and we changed something tactically, and we could comeback. 

“We created more chances which means if we had scored, we would have been in the final and not Nigeria.”

Broos, who confirmed he would like to stay in his role after the finals, says his players gave their all.

“It’s a big disappointment for everyone, we believe we played a very good game, not just (against Nigeria) but throughout the tournament. I’m proud of my players.”

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