February 12, (THEWILL) – Ivory Coast produced a stunning comeback to beat rivals Nigeria 2-1 in the Africa Cup of Nations final, on Sunday night, in Abidjan.
Trailing 1-0 at half-time courtesy of a William Troost-Ekong header, the Elephants roared back in the second period led by the brilliant Simon Adingra. His inch-perfect crosses set up Franck Kessie and Sebastien Haller to score, sparking scenes of jubilation inside the packed 60,000-capacity Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara.
After unusually reaching the final, having only qualified from their group in third place, Ivory Coast was determined to make the most of home advantage this time round. Backed by boisterous support, they started brightly with Adingra, Haller and Max Gradel all going close. Against the run of play, Nigeria took the lead five minutes before the break when Troost-Ekong rose highest to head home a well-worked corner.
Whatever manager Jean-Louis Gasset said during the break had the desired effect. His side emerged full of intent, peppering the Nigeria goal with unrelenting efforts. They got their reward just after the hour mark when Kessie escaped his marker to nod in following another superb Adingra delivery. The contest looked headed for extra time until the 23-year-old Brighton winger, who was making his international debut here after only receiving clearance days before the tournament, set up Haller’s dramatic 89th-minute winner.
The victory capped a remarkable comeback for Ivory Coast, who struggled initially. Yet, inspired by talismanic captain Haller, fresh from battling testicular cancer, they peaked at just the right time on a famous night for Ivorian football. The celebrations across the West African nation are expected to last long into the early hours of Monday morning.
About the Author
Jude Obafemi is a versatile senior Correspondent at THEWILL Newspapers, excelling in sourcing, researching, and delivering sports news stories for both print and digital publications.