Ivory Coast & Nigeria Qualify For AFCON Final

Ivory Coast defeated DR Congo, 1-0, to advance to the Africa Cup of Nations final where they will face Nigeria. Sebastien Haller scored the winning goal in the 65th minute to the delight of the packed Olympic Stadium. This will be the nation’s fourth trip to the AFCON final, winning in both 1992 and 2015 and finishing runners-up in 2006 and 2012.

The match was the first time the tournament hosts had returned to the Alassane Ouattara Stadium since their 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea. The loss had left the team on the brink of exiting the competition in the group stage.

The match had a number of close-calls for both teams, with Ivory Coast getting 14 shots on goal compared to the 7 of DR Congo. Ivory Coast looked especially threatening from the corners in the first half, with Haller almost opening the scoring with a diving header early on.  

Cedric Bakambuhad thought he’d broken the deadlock for DR Congo but referee Ibrahim Mutaz had already blown his whistle. He ruled that Elia had kicked the ball out of Fofana’s hands which disallowed the goal.

Haller finally broke through in the 65th minute when his volley bounced down into the ground and up over goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi. The Borussia Dortmund striker had missed a golden opportunity to double the lead later, when he missed an unmarked header.

The two-time champions, DR Congo had drawn their first four games in the tournament and will likely consider this a successful campaign, qualifying for the semi finals. The team was not expected to make it into the backend of the competition based on their form. 

Nigeria Beat South Africa in Penalty Shootout

In the other semi final, Nigeria was able to overcome South Africa in a penalty shootout, 4-2 to advance to their 3rd AFCON final. South Africa won the first edition of the AFCON they participated in back in 1996.

The match finished 1-1 after extra time, as both teams managed to cash in on penalties. 

First captain William Troost-Ekong scored after 67 minutes for Nigeria and then Teboho Mokoena equalized for South Africa from a 90th-minute spot-kick.

Nigeria thought they had scored a second goal through a tap-in from Victor Osimhen but the play was called back. VAR was checked and it was found that Percy Tau had been fouled in the area and the match official agreed, calling off the goal.

Nigeria during the TotalEnergies Caf Africa Cup of Nations
IMAGO / Shengolpixs

Khuliso Mudau got a last gasp chance to win for South Africa in added time but couldn’t capitalize after goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali parried a Mokoena free kick. South Africa ended up finishing with 10 men after Grant Kekana was sent off  in the 115th minute.

Nigeria came into the match having won all of the team’s previous encounters with South Africa. Some of the notable victories were the 2-0 win in the 2000 semi-final in Nigeria and the 2-1 win in a 2019 quarter-final in Egypt.

Nigeria Vs Ivory Coast Preview

Both teams go into the final in great form and loads of fire power behind them. Arguably the most notable player to be featured in the match will be Victor Osimhen, considered one of the best strikers in the world.

Nigeria were able to beat Ivory Coast in the group stage 1-0 but much has changed since then. 

The two sides now have an identical head-to-head record but Nigeria had previously lost four of their previous six meetings against Ivory Coast.

In team news, Victor Osimhen was declared fit to lead Nigeria against South Africa after abdominal discomfort. The injury had initially delayed him from traveling with the squad.

For Ivory Coast, Haller seems to be fit and back at his best which bodes well for their chances. Brighton’s Simon Adingra has also been given the green light to play.

The Nigeria vs Ivory Coast final is scheduled for an 8pm GMT kick-off on Sunday February 11, 2024. The match will be played at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan.