Ivory Coast have won the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AfCON) after a memorable run that saw the hosts narrowly survive elimination at the group stages of the tournament.
Testicular Cancer survivor Sebastien Haller was the hero of the night and perhaps the tournament after he scored the trophy winning goal in the 81st minute of the game.
The Ivorians came from behind to beat three-time winners Nigeria, who had scored the opening goal through William Troost-Ekong.
The hosts put up a spirited fight that was characterized by great ball possession, pressure on goal coupled with wonderful support from the home fans.
The unbelievable support perhaps motivated the Elephants to score the equalizer that came in the 62nd minute by Franck Kessie.
Haller, who plays professional football for German club Borussia Dortmund, also scored the winning goal in their semi-final goal against D.R Congo.
The AfCON victory for the Ivorians caps a roller-coaster ride for the Ivorians that took them to the brink of elimination following two defeats at the group stages.
The Elephants had suffered a 4-0 humiliating defeat at the hands of Equatorial Guinea and a 1-0 loss to the Nigerians.
They only progressed to the knockout stages as the best losers. But the narrow escape injected a new sense of purpose and determination that fired them to eventual victory.
Despite being delayed from its initial planned dates of June and July last year because of weather conditions in West Africa, the tournament, recorded its own history as one that has had the most number of goals – 119 from 52 games, endless shocks and drama from the home crowd.
Ivory Coast last won the tournament in 2015, adding to their previous victory in 1999.
It was however the first time since 2006 that a host nation had won the top prize in African football when Egypt, again, beat Ivory Coast to claim the trophy.
Equatorial Guinea’s Emilio Nsue won the golden boot after scoring 5 goals.