In a highly anticipated AFCON 2023 final between two established African football powers both falling on hard times in recent years, it was the hosts who had the last of their nine lives remaining.
Sebastien Haller, played hero 18 months removed from his testicular cancer diagnosis, completing a comeback to score the 81st minute winner for Ivory Coast, who emerged with the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations title with a 2-1 win over Nigeria in Abidjan.
It was the Super Eagles who led at halftime through captain William Troost-Ekong, despite appearing second-best through the first half-hour, but the hosts would not be denied for long.
Franck Kessie deposited a header off a corner past the hour mark to level the score, and Haller’s flick gave the Elephants the lead with under 10 minutes remaining.
Both teams made it this far on the backs of late drama, so it was fitting that it was won in the final minutes of play. Nigeria had conceded just two goals all tournament to this point, but under repeated pressure all game, were unable to keep the Elephants out across the 90 minutes of action.
The win for Ivory Coast is an incredible achievement, having only squeaked through to the knockout stage as the final team to qualify, firing their coach in the process. Interim boss Emerse Fae took over and led the side on an improbable run, securing the trophy in the end.