By Oyediji Oluwaseun Babatunde
Cote d’Ivoire lifted the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations title after beating Nigeria 2-1 in Sunday’s final at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium.
It was a thriller and tasty affair after the Ivorians made a poor start to the final, conceding a 38th minute goal off William Troost-Ekong’s header before the hosts fought back through Franck Kessie and Sabastine Haller to nick it.
The Elephants overcame the ugly start, having advanced through the back dooe as the fourth best third placed side to become the champions, celebrating their third Afcon title in their 25th appearance, and first since 2015.
As anticipated, coach Jose Peseiro started Stanley Nwabali, Calvin Bassey, William Troost Ekong Semi Ajayi, Zaidu Sanusi, Alex Iwobi, Frank Onyeka, Ola Aina, Ademola Lookman, Samuel Chukwueze, and Victor Osimhen.
For Cote D’Ivoire’s Emerse Fae, Yahia Fofana, Serge Airier, Odilon Kossounou, Evan Ndicka, Ghislain Konan, Franck Kessie, Jean Michael Seri, Seko Fofana, Maz Gradel, Sebastien Haller, and Simon Adingra got starters shirts.
The Super Eagles hold on for the first 35 minutes without conceding a goal despite the intimidating atmosphere with the large number of Ivorian spectators cheerinh their team and booing Nigerian players.
Ekong in his usual fashion rose highest to head Nigeria ahead in the 38th minute, with a record-breaking fifth Africa Cup of Nations goal becoming the highest-scoring defender in the competition history.
After the restart, the Ivorians came back in a remarkable fashion, putting two stunning goals. First, it was Kessie who headed in the equaliser in the 62nd minute out of nothing.
When the Nigerians were aiming to find their way back, Haller brilliantly finished Adingra’s cross to give the hosts the lead nine minutes from time.
The win took the Elephants’ African title haul to three, leveling up with Nigeria on the trophy table.