We examine why Ivory Coast’s defeat of Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations may have just marked the greatest AFCON yet.
As Ivory Coast came from a goal down to beat Nigeria and complete the most remarkable of sporting redemptions, it also encapsulated not only their own journey but that of a tournament, a continent and a man.
The 2-1 victory in the final for the Elephants was a huge achievement against the Super Eagles, who were heavy favourites and led by the African Footballer of the Year, Victor Osimhen.
Yet this was a tournament that sparked into life and never let go of a flame that burned with the dreams in every corner of Africa, producing upsets and stories that will live long in the memory of all and not just the Elephants.
To be capped by a winning goal scored by Sebastian Haller, diagnosed with testicular cancer in July 2022, was poetic to a wider audience, yet it is impossible to put into words what it must mean to the player and his family. As the sport’s governing body on the continent, the Confederation of African Football, dubbed it: “Haller’s story is one for the ages.”
It all began with Ivory Coast’s capitulation in Group A. It was the first major story of the tournament and made Sunday’s turnaround against Nigeria all the more spectacular.