Sebastien Haller scored the winning goal to help hosts, Ivory Coast to a 2-1 win over Nigeria which earned them the 2023 Nations Cup trophy, Sportivationng.com reports.
It was a triumph born of adversity, as the Ivorians clawed their way out of their group after two defeats, including a humbling 4-0 setback to Equatorial Guinea, before finding their form in the knockout rounds with a never-say-die attitude that propelled them to victory.
Nigeria took the lead in the first half thanks to a header from William Troost-Ekong, who rose to meet Samuel Chukwueze’s flick-on from a corner, but Franck Kessie equalized just after the hour mark after being left unmarked at the back post from a set piece.
The Ivorians had to come from behind several times during the competition, and they did so again when Haller steered Simon Adingra’s cross into the goal.
Haller was diagnosed with testicular cancer in July 2022, but he overcame the disease and has been an important player for the Ivorians, despite missing the start of the tournament due to an ankle injury, playing his first game in the last-16 victory over defending champions Senegal.
His story exemplifies the fight inside the Ivorian team, who became the first host nation to win the Cup of Nations since Egypt in 2006.
All four of their previous continental finals had ended 0-0, with them winning on penalties in 1992 and 2015, both against Ghana, and losing the other two.
The home side dominated much of this year’s final, with Adingra stopped by a brilliant save from Nigeria goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali, until the visitors seized the lead with their first shot on goal on 38 minutes.
Troost-Ekong scored from Ademola Lookman’s corner, which Chukwueze flicked on, and the Nigerian captain won the second ball ahead of Serge Aurier.
The hosts had a great chance to equalize early in the second half when the ball dropped to Max Gradel in the area, but his powerful drive was saved by Calvin Bassey.
Nwabali had to knock away a fantastic long-range attempt from Adingra, but from the subsequent corner, Ivory Coast equalized when Kessie was left unmarked at the back post and headed into the net.
The Ivorians held on to earn a 2-1 victory to earn their third Nations Cup trophy.