Sebastien Haller scored the goal that won Ivory Coast the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) on their own turf less than two years after being diagnosed with, and subsequently overcoming, testicular cancer. The Elephants came from behind to defeat Nigeria 2-1 in Abidjan, securing a victory for rookie manager Emerse Fae which looked highly unlikely when he was appointed midway through the tournament.
The Ivorians took the game to Nigeria early on, and Brighton winger Simon Adingra cemented his status as one of the stars of the tournament with an electric display. The Super Eagles felt his presence with just over six minutes on the clock as he crossed in for Haller to turn narrowly wide.
Nigeria sat back and accepted having less of the ball during the early exchanges, and they were lucky to avoid falling behind when Max Gradel’s overhead kick hit the side netting, with half of the Alassane Ouattara Stadium believing it had gone in.
Frustration grew in the Nigerian camp as they struggled to affect the game, with Victor Osimhen erupting at Evan Ndicka for what he felt was a stray elbow, but the Napoli striker was soon to be smiling.
William Troost-Ekong was the source of his happiness, rising highest in the box to meet a looping ball and power a header past Yahia Fofana, aerially dominating Serge Aurier in the process.
Former Watford defender Troost-Ekong has been an unlikely source of goals for the Super Eagles, netting three in the tournament and overshadowing Osimhen at the business-end of the pitch.
With 10 minutes to play, the standout star of the night, Adingra, danced down the left flank and crossed in for Haller, who delivered the deftest of finishes to spark bedlam on the bench as Ivory Coast knew they were within touching distance of a euphoric victory.
Buoyed by rampant home support, they held on to clinch their third AFCON title and their first since 2015, taking over from Senegal as the reigning African champions and celebrating wildly at the full-time whistle.