In a thrilling semi-final clash against the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ivory Coast booked their ticket to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final with a hard-fought victory, buoyed by Sébastien Haller’s memorable winner.
The Elephants, backed by their fervent home support, displayed resilience and determination to overcome their opponents in a pulsating encounter at the hot and humid northern Abidjan.
The match began with intense pace as both teams sought to gain an early advantage. However, an early goal by the DRC’s Cédric Bakambu was disallowed after a VAR review, providing a reprieve for the Ivorian side.
Ivory Coast gradually seized control of the game, with Wilfried Singo and Max Gradel orchestrating dangerous attacks from the flanks.
Despite several missed opportunities, including a close effort from Franck Kessié that struck the post, Ivory Coast remained undeterred.
The pivotal moment arrived when substitute Théo Bongonda threatened with a darting run into the box, only to be denied by the side-netting.
It was then that Sébastien Haller rose to the occasion, connecting with Gradel’s cross to produce a stunning volley that looped over the outstretched arms of the DRC goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi.
Haller’s decisive strike ignited jubilant celebrations among the home fans, propelling Ivory Coast to a well-deserved victory.
With their place secured in the final, Ivory Coast will now face Nigeria in a bid to claim their third AFCON title. For rookie manager Emerse Faé, who took charge midway through the tournament, the prospect of a fairytale triumph beckons as his team prepares for Sunday’s eagerly anticipated showdown.