Haller Goal Sends Ivory Coast to AFCON 2024 Final
In a thrilling semi-final showdown, Sebastien Haller emerged as the hero, propelling hosts Ivory Coast to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Democratic Republic of Congo. The decisive goal, netted by Borussia Dortmund striker Haller in the 65th minute, sealed the Ivorians’ passage to the Africa Cup of Nations final.
Making his first start of the tournament after recovering from injury, Haller capitalized on a Max-Alain Gradel cross, his precise shot sailing over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The Ebimpe Olympic Stadium erupted in celebration as Ivory Coast secured their spot in the final, where they will lock horns with Nigeria in a bid for the coveted title.
The triumph marks a remarkable turnaround for the two-time champions, who navigated a treacherous path to the final. Interim coach Emerse Fae, stepping in for the sacked Jean-Louis Gasset, guided the team through adversity after a dismal start in the group stage. Following a humiliating 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast faced the prospect of early elimination.
However, resilient performances propelled them to the knockout stage, where they overcame reigning champions Senegal in a tense penalty shootout. Further drama unfolded in the quarter-finals, as Ivory Coast edged past Mali despite playing with ten men for the majority of the match. Oumar Diakite, the hero of the Mali clash, was suspended for the semi-final, along with key players Serge Aurier, Odilon Kossounou, and Christian Kouame.
Stepping up to fill the void were the likes of Brighton winger Simon Adingra, who showcased his prowess with a crucial goal against Mali, and the talismanic forward Haller, who proved his worth with the match-winning strike against DR Congo.
For DR Congo, the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow, dashing their hopes of a first AFCON final appearance since their triumph as Zaire in 1974. Despite their dreams being shattered, the Leopards fought valiantly, seeking redemption for their loss to Ivory Coast in the 2015 semi-finals.
As Ivory Coast prepares to face Nigeria in the final showdown, they carry the hopes of a nation and the weight of their miraculous journey to the brink of AFCON glory. With determination and resilience, they aim to etch their names in history as the first host country to lift the Cup of Nations since Egypt in 2006.