Cote d’Ivoire, 2023 AFCON hosts, are the new champions of Africa. The Elephants came from a goal down in the first half to secure victory.
Two second-half goals from Franck Kessie and Sebastien Haller gave the Elephants their third AFCON triumph.
Simon Adingra, playing on the left of their attack, was a thorn in the Eagles defensive setup all game and caused Ola Aina all kinds of challenges. The Brighton winger was the lightning rod the Elephants needed and forced Nwabali into a good save in the 33rd minute.
The Super Eagles scored with their first attempt on target when William Troost-Ekong rose over Serge Aurier to head past Yahia Fofana. The goal was undeserved as the Elephants had more ball possession and created the better goal-scoring chances.
The first half ended with Osimhen needing treatment after falling awkwardly after another tangle with Aurier. That was the story of the half: Nigeria committing fouls, and Cote d’Ivoire faster to every 50-50 ball.
The Eagles were warned in the 50th minute when Calvin Bassey’s knees were the saving grace that kept his team ahead. Jose Peseiro took off the ineffective Samuel Chukwueze, and Moses Simon was sent on in the 55th minute as the Nigerian team sought control.
In the 60th minute, Kessie headed straight at Nwabali as the Elephants got closer to a deserved equaliser. Adingra sent in the corner kick, from which Kessie equalised in the 62nd minute after Stanley Nwabali had scrambled Odilon Kossounou’s shot for a corner kick. The Chippa United goalkeeper made his first mistake of the tournament when he tried to come for the corner and was stranded.
Both Calvin Bassey and Zaidu Sanusi were not strong enough to prevent Kessie from heading past Nwabali for the equaliser. This was a fully deserved goal for the Ivorians, who dominated the encounter from start to finish.
Haller went close with an acrobatic kick in the 74th minute as the Nigerian defence withered. And the redemption was finalised when Haller got ahead of Troost Ekong to prod the ball beyond Nwabali. Again, it was good work from Adingra, who took on Aina and whipped in the cross, from which Haller got the winning goal.
Nigeria tried to respond with changes. Alhassan Yusuf and Kelechi Iheanacho came on for Iwobi and Lookman with 11 minutes left on the clock. Joe Aribo and Terem Moffi were sent on towards the end, but the Eagles hardly threatened.
After seven added minutes, Cote d’Ivoire were worthy winners of the 2023 AFCON tournament, which has been well staged.
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