Nigeria’s hopes were dashed as Côte d’Ivoire clinched the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title with a late goal in Sunday’s dramatic showdown.
The Super Eagles fought valiantly but ultimately succumbed to a Sebastian Haller goal which helped the Elephants to a 2-1 victory in Abidjan.
Nigeria, aiming to replicate their earlier 1-0 win against Côte d’Ivoire in the group stage, took the lead when captain William Troost-Ekong headed the ball into the net just before halftime.
However, ex-AC Milan player Frank Kessie equalized for the Ivorians shortly after the hour mark, capitalizing on a scramble within the Nigerian penalty area.
In the 81st minute, Borussia Dortmund’s striker, Sebastian Haller, converted Simon Adingra’s cross, sending the home crowd in Abidjan into a frenzy of orange-clad celebrations.
Ivory Coast’s success sees them add this year’s title to those claimed in 1992 and 2015, while this win also allows them to join Nigeria on three Cup of Nations triumphs overall.
Only Egypt, Cameroon and Ghana have won the title more often, with the Super Eagles squandering the opportunity to match their Ghanaian rivals on four victories.
Spearheaded by reigning African player of the year Osimhen, the Nigerians had looked the most formidable team in the competition over the last month.
But Ivory Coast’s sense of destiny was simply too overpowering, as they became the first host country to win the AFCON since 2006.
Didier Drogba captained the Elephants team that lost on penalties to Egypt in Cairo in that final 18 years ago, while this time he was among the spectators to witness a stunning victory for his country.