Former West Ham striker & Chelsea legend celebrate as Cote D’Ivoire beat Nigeria to win African Cup of Nations
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Former West Ham United striker Sebastian Haller was the match-winner as he scored the decisive goal to help Cote D’Ivoire see off Nigeria to become African Cup of Nations champions for the third time.
With Chelsea icon Didier Drogba watching on from the stands, the Elephants were forced to come from a goal down to claim the trophy, much to the delight of the vast majority of supporters inside Abidjan’s Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara.
After a scrappy opening 40 minutes it was Nigeria, who fielded Brentford midfielder Frank Onyeka and Fulham duo Alex Iwobi and Calvin Bassey, that grabbed the first goal of the game as former Watford centre-back William Troost-Ekong powered a header beyond the helpless Yahia Fofana and ensured his side took a narrow lead into the interval.
Former Leeds United forward Max Gradel came close to levelling for the hosts four minutes after the restart when his goalbound drive was blocked by Cottagers star Bassey inside his own six-yard area. However, there would be no let-off for Nigeria on the hour-mark when Brighton and Hove Albion winger Simon Adingra’s corner-kick was headed home at the far post by Franck Kessie.
Cote D’Ivoire came within inches of going in front for the first time in the game with just under 15 minutes remaining when striker Sebastian Haller sent an overhead kick narrowly wide of the near post. Once again, just as they had on the equaliser, Nigeria failed to heed the warning and they fell behind with ten minutes left on the clock as Adingra’s cross was expertly diverted beyond goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali by Haller. In winning the tournament for his country, former Hammers striker Haller rounded off a remarkable two-year period after he recovered from testicular cancer to return to competitive football with Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund last season.
Former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough midfielder George Boateng, who was on Ghana's coaching staff at two recent tournaments, stressed the importance of winning the tournament to the hosts and he revealed the impact would be felt at every level of the country.
He told Sky Sports: "I am sorry for Nigeria but it sounds fantastic for Ivory Coast and I am sure it's not just football. You have to be out there to understand the significance of this game and the importance of this game. It has influence in the economy, it has influence in the way people look at life, whether the cup is half empty or half full, that's how important this is and how big football is."
Nigeria: Nwabali, Ajayi, Troost-Ekong, Bassey, Aina, Onyeka (Moffi), Sanusi (Aribo), Iwobi (Yusuf), Chukwueze (Simon), Lookman (Iheanacho), Osimhen Subs: Uzoho, Omeruo, Awaziem, Osayi-Samuel, Onyedika, Onuachu, Musa
Cote D’Ivoire: Y Fofana, Aurier (Singo), Kossounou, N’Dicka, Kessie, Konan, Seri (Amani), S Fofana (Sangare), Gradel (Diakite), Haller, Adingra Subs: Diallo, Diomande, Bamba, Pepe, Kouame, Krasso, Boga