Elephants of Cote D’ IVoire came from a goal down to defeat Nigeria 2-1 and win the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan on Sunday night.
The Elephants secured their third continental triumph – and became the first host champions since Egypt in 2006 – thanks to second half goals from Franck Kessie and Sebastien Haller, after the Super Eagles enjoyed a 1-0 lead at the break thanks to William Troost-Ekong.
Ivory Coast had the game’s first goal threat in the seventh minute when Simon Adingra’s cross from the left flashed across the penalty area, with Sebastien Haller unable to get enough of a touch with his outstretched foot to direct it on target.
The hosts continued to look dangerous in attack and on 21 minutes Max Gradel tried an acrobatic volley from a loose ball in the penalty area but saw his effort ripple the side netting.
On 34 minutes the Elephants forced the first major save of the game, with a fine passing move putting Adingra into space down the left of the penalty area, and his low drive was palmed away by Nigeria goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali.
The Super Eagles had offered little in attack but claimed the lead against the run of play in the 38th minute, with William Troost-Ekong getting on the end of a looping ball in the penalty area and powering home a header for 1-0.
A goal down at the break, Ivory Coast put up early attacking pressure after the restart and on 49 minutes a loose ball in the penalty area was powered toward goal by Gradel, but Calvin Bassey got in the way to keep Nigeria in front.
Just past the hour mark the Elephants won a corner when Nwabali turned Odilon Kossounou’s long-range drive around the post. The set piece saw Adingra whip in a cross which found Franck Kessie, and the midfielder nodded home from a few yards out to draw the hosts level at 1-1 on 63 minutes.
Eleven minutes later Adingra put a hopeful header into the middle of the penalty area and Haller tried an overhead kick which flashed wide of the mark – much to the relief of Nwabali.
However, on 81 minutes the Elephants completed their comeback, as Adingra crossed from the left and Haller stuck his leg out in front of Troost-Ekong to glance the ball into the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.
The host nation were able to hold off Nigeria’s late attempts at finding an equaliser, with the final whistle confirming an incredible Afcon triumph for the team in orange.