The Super Eagles of Nigeria will clash head-to-head with the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire today in the final of the 2023 African Cup of Nations.
Following a jittery start to their campaign, the Super Eagles of Nigeria soared into the final impressively to send out a strong signal of being title contenders.
On the other hand, Cotê d’Ivoire made good use of their qualification as one of the third-best-placed teams after a 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea nearly ended their campaign.
Let go through the journey of how both teams secured a spot in the finals of Africa’s greatest football final.
The Super Eagles secured a second-placed finish after being drawn in a challenging Group A that included Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, and the tournament hosts, Cote d’Ivoire.
After a nerve-wracking 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea, the Super Eagles bounced back against the Elephants with a close 1-0 victory and a similar result against Guinea-Bissau to secure their spot in the Round of 16.
In the Round of 16, Nigeria began to get into a groove and pick up speed. The Indomitable Lions were eliminated from the competition after an intriguing match in which the red-hot Ademola Lookman of Nigeria scored twice in a 2-0 victory for his team.
The Super Eagles’ 1-0 victory over a tough Angola in the quarterfinals in Abidjan was not exactly a high-scoring contest. The three-time champions showed a real champions’ attitude with their outstanding game management skills, even though they might not have scored more than once.
In the semi-finals, Nigeria continued their dominance over South Africa by defeating them 4-2 on penalties to progress to the final. Nigeria miraculously prevailed on penalties after 120 minutes ended 1-1, repeating their 2000 semi-finals upset of South Africa. Super Eagle’s goalkeeper, Stanley Nwabali, was named Man of the Match after a superb display after he saved two penalties.
The Super Eagles thus advanced to the final in a bid to secure their fourth AFCON trophy after winning it last in 2013.
In front of a boisterous crowd at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan, the host nation, Cotê d’Ivoire, got off to a commanding 2-0 victory over Guinea Bissau thanks to goals from Seko Fofana and Jean-Philippe Krasso.
After the hosts lost 1-0 to Nigeria in their second match, Jean-Louis Gasset and his team’s fortunes began to unravel. the result of Nigeria vs Cote d’Ivoire was the beginning of the Ivorians’ worries.
To automatically qualify, they had to defeat Equatorial Guinea in their final game, but the Nzalang proved to be tough opponents. After losing 4-0, the Elephants were leaving for home.
Not until Morocco and Zambia played their last group stage match of the entire competition did Côte d’Ivoire (3 points) win a spot as the best third-placed team, guaranteeing qualification for the Round of 16.
The coaching staff of the Elephants was reorganised before the knockout stage. Emerse Faé succeeded Gasset, who was fired following the crushing defeat by Equatorial Guinea.
Things started to improve for Cotê d’Ivoire in the Round of 16, as they defeated Senegal, the reigning champions, 5–4 on penalties after a 1–1 120-minute match.
Mali was their opponent in the quarterfinals. Having regained confidence, Cotê d’Ivoire defeated Mali 2-1 in extra time, even though they had lost a player early in the match.
The game was won by late goals from Simon Adingra and Oumar Diakite in regulation and extra time, respectively, securing a spot in the semifinals for the home team.
By defeating the Leopards 1-0 in the semifinals, Cotê D’Ivoire restored their morale and demonstrated the character needed to compete. The Ivorians won it thanks to a goal from Sebastian Haller in the second half.
Côte d’Ivoire thus advanced to the final in a bid to secure their third AFCON title.
With their sights set on the trophy, Nigeria vs Cote d’Ivoire will face off for the second time during this tournament. The match will be played at the Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara, 9pm (Nigerian time).