Ivory Coast Defeats Nigeria 2 – 1 to Win the 2023 AFCON
Sebastien Haller was the hero for Ivory Coast again as the Elephants came from behind to beat Nigeria and win the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final on home soil.
The striker, who had also netted the semi-final winner just 13 months on from his return from testicular cancer, flicked in Simon Adingra’s cross with the toe of his boot with nine minutes remaining to complete a second-half comeback and spark wild celebrations in Abidjan.
William Troost-Ekong had put Nigeria ahead seven minutes before the end of a cagey first half when the center-back rose highest to powerfully head in from nine yards out following a corner.
Franck Kessie nodded in the equalizer in the 62nd minute when he was left unmarked at the back post from Ad Ingra’s corner.
The elephants pick up $7m (£5.54m) in prize money, with Nigeria handed $4m by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Nigeria, three-time continental champions themselves, had previously been unbeaten at the finals, including a 1-0 win over the Ivoirians in the group stage, but the Super Eagles rarely imposed themselves after sitting back for most of the contest.
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Ivory Coast becomes the 12 host nation to win the Nations Cup title, while Nigeria will be left to rue a fifth defeat in the showpiece game – and their second in Abidjan after losing to Cameroon in 1984.
On the pitch, Nigeria had taken the lead through Troost-Ekong’s powerful first-half header before Kessie equalized with his aerial effort from a corner just past the hour-mark for the hosts.
Haller, who returned to playing in January 2023 after four rounds of chemotherapy and surgery in November 2022, steered Simon Adingra’s cross into the net to break Nigerian hearts with less than 10 minutes to play.
It’s the power of the group and the mindset that put us through, said Ivorian man of the match Adingra.
We had some challenging moments but we rescued ourselves, although it wasn’t easy. The mental fortitude saw us restore our chances and do what we achieved today.
Our people deserve this victory because they stood with us even when many thought we were dead.