Nigeria to face hosts Cote D’Ivoire in AFCON final on Sunday

Nigeria to face hosts Cote D’Ivoire in AFCON final on Sunday

The Super Eagles of Nigeria will clash with the Elephants of Cote D’Ivoire on Sunday in the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

This comes after both teams defeated their opponents in their respective semi-final fixtures to set up a date in the final.

Recall Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria had earlier met in the group stage of the competition with Super Eagles triumphing over the hosts 1-0.

Haller goal takes Cote D’Ivoire through to AFCON final
Sebastien Haller was the hero with the only goal of the game as hosts Ivory Coast beat the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 to win through to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday.

Starting for the first time at the tournament following injury, Borussia Dortmund striker Haller connected with a Max-Alain Gradel cross in the 65th minute at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium, his shot looping over the goalkeeper and in.

That was enough to settle a tense but open semi-final showdown, and the Ivorians will now face Nigeria at the same venue on Sunday to decide who takes the title.

The two-time champions are the first host country to reach the final of the Cup of Nations since Egypt in 2006, and the turnaround is absolutely remarkable for a team that was on the brink of elimination in the group stage

In contrast, it was an agonising defeat for DR Congo, who had been dreaming of a first appearance in an AFCON final since they were champions as Zaire in 1974.

Ivory Coast’s run at the tournament had been described on the eve of this game as “miraculous” by their own interim coach Emerse Fae, the man who replaced the sacked Jean-Louis Gasset following embarrassing results in the group stage.

Humiliated and on the verge of elimination after a 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea on January 22, this was their first match at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium on Abidjan’s dusty outskirts since then.

The Elephants scraped through to the last 16 as the last of the four best third-placed teams, then ousted reigning champions Senegal on penalties.

They followed that by beating Mali in the quarter-finals — despite playing most of the match with 10 men — with their winner coming in added time in extra time.

Oumar Diakite, the match-winner against Mali, was sent off while celebrating his goal and was suspended here along with captain Serge Aurier, Odilon Kossounou and Christian Kouame.

Among those coming in were Brighton winger Simon Adingra, who got the equaliser against Mali, and Haller, the talismanic forward who was finally fully fit.

DR Congo were looking to avenge their 3-1 defeat by the Ivorians in their last appearance in the AFCON semi-finals, in 2015.

Nigeria reach AFCON final after shootout victory over South Africa
Substitute Kelechi Iheanacho scored to give Nigeria a 4-2 penalty shootout victory over South Africa on Wednesday after an Africa Cup of Nations semi-final thriller in Bouake.

The match finished 1-1 after extra time and the three-time champions will face hosts Ivory Coast or the Democratic Republic of Congo, who meet later, in the final on Sunday.

Both regular-time goals also came from penalties with captain William Troost-Ekong scoring after 67 minutes for Nigeria and Teboho Mokoena equalised from a 90th-minute spot-kick.

The Mokoena equaliser came after Nigeria thought they had scored a second goal through a tap-in from star forward Victor Osimhen.

But play was called back to the other end of the field after VAR alerted the Egyptian referee that South African Percy Tau had been fouled in the area, and the match official concurred.

Khuliso Mudau had a chance to win for South Africa in added time at the end of regular time, but blazed over after goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali, who plays in South Africa, parried a free kick.

South Africa finished with 10 men as Grant Kekana was sent off on 115 minutes for a last-defender foul.

“Our team has a huge state of mind. The team fights together, There are 25 of us (in the squad and) it’s difficult to beat us,” said Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro.

“I am very happy, the players are happy, they deserve it, we deserve it, the Super Eagles deserve it, the Nigerian people deserve it.”

Nigeria entered the match with a perfect record against South Africa in the premier African football competition having won three previous meetings.

The Super Eagles beat Bafana Bafana (The Boys) 2-0 in a 2000 semi-final in Nigeria, 4-0 in a group match four years later in Tunisia and 2-1 in a 2019 quarter-final in Egypt.

Peseiro made one change to the team that beat Angola 1-0, bringing in Bright Osayi-Samuel for left-back Zaidu Sanusi.

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