HOST nation Cote d’Ivoire defeated Nigeria’s Super Eagles, 2-1 on Sunday, February 11 to win the 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy, extending Nigeria’s eleven-year trophy drought.
The Ivorians who smiled home with the $7M prize money won their third title after winning in 1992 and 2015.
They were outstanding in the first 20 minutes at Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara as they outplayed their opponents, surging forward to their opponent’s goal-bound area to take the lead.
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The host trio, Simon Adingra from the left flank, Sebastien Haller and Evan Ndika, piled up pressure on the Super Eagles’ defence but were unable to cover some of their chances.
Despite the host nation’s dominance of possessions, Nigeria soaked the pressure as they gained set pieces, which paid off with a corner kick well delivered and nodded in captain William Troost-Ekong in the 30 minutes to give the country.
The lead aroused the superiority of the Super Eagles to reduce the pressure of their opponent, but they could not tame the Ivorian for long as they showed themselves to be hungrier for goal.
Nigeria maintained the lone goal victory to the end of the first half.
But the resumption of the second half revealed the ‘never-say-die’ of the Ivorian side as they threw in all their arsenal with the Man of the Match Adingra dictating paces from the right flank with a cross in the 59 minutes but met a light header nodded by Frank Kessie.
Ivorians’ restlessness paid off after Kessie beat Troost-Ekong in the aerial challenge to nod in the ball to the back of the net after connecting a cross from the corner kick by Adingra in the 61 minutes.
The goal enliven the hope of the host nation to repeat the comeback victories they recorded against Senegal in the round of 16 and Mali in the quarter-final.
After a series of chances created to double the lead, the host nation sealed their victory after Haller stretched his long leg to tap into the net, throwing their supporters into wild jubilation.
Haller goal cemented the third AFCON title for the host nation.
Ivory Coast road to final
The host nation’s road to the final is a testament of grass to grace. They began the AFCON tournament with a disastrous start, leading to the hurried appointment of a new coach, Emerse Fae, after they heaved a sigh of relief emerging to the next round as one of the four best losers on the group stage.
But their knockout journey to the final has seen the strength of the host nation as they defeated defending champion Senega 5-4 via penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw in the regular time while the team edged Mali 2-1 in the quarter-final to advance to the semi-finals.
They won DR Congo, 1-0 in the Semi-final and went straight to beat Nigeria, 2-1 in the final.
South Africa’s Ronen William won Best Goal-Keeper
Ivory Coast’s Emerse Fae won the Best Coach
Ivory Coast’s Simon Adingra won Best Young Player
Mostafa Mohamed won the Bronze Boot
Angola’s Gelson Dala won the Silver Boot
Nigeria’s William Troost-Ekong won Man of the Competition
Equatorial Guinea won the Golden Boot