Ivory Coast’s Elephants rose from the dead to claim their third Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title, their first on home soil after almost failing to go past the group stage.
Nigeria took the lead in the 38th minute when captain William Troost-Ekong, who was named player of the tournament, soared high to head home from a corner, despite Ivory Coast dominating ball possession.
The Elephants came out firing in the second half and sought an equalizer early after the restart, with Max Gradel’s ferocious shot denied by Calvin Bassey following a brilliant attack from man of the match Simon Adingra, who was a menace for the Super Eagles.
Ivory Coast’s incredible comeback
In the 62nd minute, Franck Kessié scored his second goal of the tournament, heading in at the far post from a precise cross by Andigra.
The Elephants looked like a side that was determined to extend their lead, forcing Nigeria to sit deep in their half.
Ivory Coast’s persistent pressure eventually paid off, with Sebastien Haller tapping home a close-range winner from Adingra’s beautiful cross in the 81st minute.
After a disastrous group stage in which they were almost eliminated, the Elephants, who sacked coach Jean-Louis Gasset after losing two games, relied on assistant coach Emerse Fae to take over only five days before the round of 16. He did not disappoint, as he went on to defeat Senegal, DR Congo, and Nigeria to win the AFCON.
Their advancement to the round of 16 was made possible by Morocco’s victory over Zambia, which placed them as the last third-best team.
The Elephants have now won the AFCON three times: in 1992, 2015, and 2024. Their success this year also makes them the first host nation to win the AFCON since Egypt in 2006.