Nigeria manager José Peseiro made only the one change from their semifinal success over D.R. Congo as Samuel Chukwueze replaced Moses Simon for Sunday’s TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations final.
Meanwhile, Ivory Coast are the first host nation since Egypt in 2006 to reach the final hurdle of an Africa Cup of Nations finals – incidentally the Pharaohs lifted the trophy in that particular year by defeating the Elephants in a penalty shootout.
NGA: Nwabili; Ajayi, Troost-Ekong, Bassey; Aina, Sanusi, Iwobi, Onyeka; Chukwueze, Ademola Lookman, Osimhen
CIV: Fofana; Aurier, Kossounou, Ndicka, Konan; Seri, Kessié, Fofana; Adingra, Gradel, Haller
Having already knocked out defending champions Senegal in the round-of-sixteen, Ivory Coast began on the front foot as Seko Fofana fired straight into the arms of Nigeria goalkeeper Stanley Nwabili. The hosts would again go close to the game’s opening goal not long after, as Max Gradel’s acrobatic attempt at a modified overhead kick flew only narrowly wide.
The Elephants’ rampant charge towards goal continued all the way up until half-time – albeit not breaking the deadlock – with Nwabili doing brilliantly to deny Brighton & Hove Albion striker Simon Adingra.
However, heavily against the run of play, Nigeria left Emerse Faé’s newly-inherited side in a stunned silence in the 38th minute, as William Troost-Ekong authoritatively rose above his captaining counterpart Serge Aurier to powerfully head home Samuel Chukwueze’s flick-on across goal past Yahia Fofana.Embed from Getty Images
Seeking an immediate response after half-time, Ivory Coast flew out of the block from the restart as Calvin Bassey instinctively blocked Gradel’s goalbound effort with less than five minutes on the clock in the second half.
However, there was nothing that could stop the hosts from getting back on level terms shortly after the hour-mark, as Franck Kessié met Adingra’s corner with an unstoppable diving header.
Unbelievably, Emerse Faé’s side turned the game on its head in the 81st minute as Sébastien Haller cleverly got in front of Troost-Ekong – via another Adingra cross – to send the ball flying past Nwabili, and in turn sent the majority in attendance at the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpé into euphoric celebrations.Embed from Getty Images
Another match-winning goal from Haller ultimately saw interim manager Faé and the Ivory Coast cap-off an amazing tournament – which saw the Elephants amazingly sack Jean-Louis Gasset in the group-stages – by lifting their third AFCON trophy.