By Monsurah Olatunji
A rematch of a tight Group A contest awaits as Nigeria will battle hosts Côte d’Ivoire to decide who will be crowned champions of the Africa 2023 Nations Cup (AFCON) at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan on Sunday.
The three-time champions advanced from the semi-finals after defeating South Africa 4-2 in a thrilling penalty shootout while tournament the hosts booked their place after edging DR Congo 1-0 on Wednesday night.
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 was enough to settle a tense but open semi-final showdown.
The two sides previously met in the group stage, where the Super Eagles won 1-0, courtesy of a penalty from William Troost-Ekong.
Despite being a tournament full of twists, turns and upsets, the final will be contested by two sides that have previously won AFCON as the Elephants of Ivory Coast have won it twice.
The hosts sacked their manager Jean-Louis Gasset after a disastrous 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea that looked to have ended their campaign at the group stage, but they squeezed through as the best third-place team before knocking out holders Senegal.
The Ivorians will be hoping to join Nigeria, Algeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Ghana, Sudan and Ethiopia on the host-to-win chart.
The two-time champions are the first host country to reach the final of the Cup of Nations since Egypt in 2006.
Cote d’Ivoire will look to capture their first AFCON title since 2015 while denying rivals Nigeria their first AFCON title in 10 years, a fourth continental crown.