Let the social gathering start.
Sébastien Haller scored late to steer host nation Ivory Coast to a exceptional Africa Cup of Nations title with a 2-1 victory over Nigeria within the ultimate on Sunday, February 11, 2024.
Haller fired in from shut vary within the 81st minute to finish the turnaround after Franck Kessié drew the Elephants stage within the 62nd.
It was Ivory Coast’s third title after wins in 1992 and 2015, each received on penalties.
Veteran Ivory Coast midfielder Max Gradel, now 36, was a part of the 2015 championship staff.
“Representing the national team is everything, and to have brought joy to all Ivorians with what I’ve done is even more incredible,” Gradel stated Sunday. “Perhaps I don’t realize everything that happened today yet, there are too many things in my head, but I think I’ll take some time to realize it.
“The most important thing is that Ivorians are proud of the team and I think they are that tonight. Winning the Africa Cup this evening, there is nothing better, nothing better.”
Haller’s second goal in as many games after recovering from an ankle injury that kept him out of the group stage completed a personal triumph for the player, just over a year since he returned from cancer treatment.
Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong had scored in the 38th against the run of play with a header to a corner. The Super Eagles had been outplayed in the first half and really only threatened again in a desperate attempt to equalize after Haller’s goal.
Troost-Ekong also scored when the teams last met in the group stage for Nigeria’s 1-0 win. That match had been just the start of the Elephants’ troubles as Ivory Coast was almost eliminated in its next game. It fired its coach but recorded late comeback wins over defending champion Senegal and Mali in the knockout stage, before Haller fired the team into the final with the winning goal against Congo in the semifinals.
Ivory Coast’s unlikely progression through the knockout stage as it overcame setback after setback convinced many devout Ivorians that God was on the team’s side.
“It was an extraordinary tournament,” said interim coach Emerse Faé, the previous assistant who took over on his 40th birthday.
Nigeria conceded as many goals in the final as it had in all its previous games in the tournament. Coach José Peseiro had banked on a mean defense to earn what would have been the Super Eagles’ fourth title.
“We played a fantastic tournament, but today Côte d’Ivoire was better,” Peseiro said. The Portuguese coach said the pressure got to his players and commended the home team for showing none.
In the ultimate, Ivory Coast’s stress lastly paid off when Kessié’s header to Adingra’s nook set off a tumult of pleasure within the 60,000-capacity Alassane Ouattara Stadium. Kessié ran to the nook and raised his hand to his brow in salute as the ocean of orange-clad followers rippled in delight.
A small pocket of green-and-white clad Nigeria followers behind one of many targets had struggled to make an impression.
Haller’s winner set off celebrations that can final lengthy by way of the night time in Abidjan and in the remainder of the nation of 27.5 million folks.
Excitement had been constructing for days with streets became viewing areas with plastic tables and chairs set in entrance of TV screens within the district of Adjamé, and fan zones across the metropolis additionally confirmed the sport.
Traffic was delivered to a crawl for miles across the stadium hours earlier than kickoff, offering road distributors with a captive buyer base to promote chilled bottles of water, fruit, snacks, Ivory Coast flags, hats, wigs and towels, duplicate jerseys for each groups, and extra.
But it prompted issues for the Nigeria staff bus attending to the sport. Armed troopers frantically urged motorists caught in gridlock outdoors the stadium to tug over for the bus and safety element to make it by way of.
Fans needed to abandon stationary commuter buses to stroll to the match.