The electrifying final saw Côte d’Ivoire stage a remarkable comeback, securing a 2-1 win over their West African counterparts.
By Emmanuel Okoro
In a showdown that kept football fans on the edge of their seats, host nation, Côte d’Ivoire clinched the TotalEnergies’ CAF African Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy after clashing against Nigeria. The electrifying final saw the Ivorian squad stage a remarkable comeback, securing a 2-1 win over their West African counterparts.
Nigerian skipper, William Troost-Ekong, propelled Nigeria into the lead with a powerful header from a corner just before halftime. However, the Ivorian side swiftly countered, with Franck Kessie nodding in the equaliser in the 62nd minute, followed by Sebastien Haller’s decisive flick into the far corner ten minutes before the final whistle.
Despite the Super Eagles of Nigeria being favourites to win the contest, the Ivorian side dominated proceedings, commanding the field with superior ball possession, shots, and corner kicks. This stunning victory marks Côte d’Ivoire’s third AFCON title, adding to their triumphs in 1992 and 2015, and making them the first tournament hosts to claim victory since Egypt in 2006. The win also draws them level with Nigeria, who previously lifted the trophy in 1980, 1994, and 2013.
In addition to the glory of victory, the Elephants will pocket a handsome $7 million in prize money, while Nigeria will receive $4 million from CAF.
The tournament not only showcased thrilling matches but also celebrated outstanding individual performances. Nigeria’s Troost-Ekong was awarded the Man of the Competition for his instrumental role in leading Nigeria to the finals. South Africa’s Ronwen Williams claimed the Best Goalkeeper award, while Equatorial Guinea’s Emilio Nsue took home the Puma Golden Boot for his five-goal tally.
Angola’s Gelson Dala and Egypt’s Mohamed Mustafa secured the Silver and Bronze Boot respectively. 22-year-old Simon Adingra, who was the Man of the Match in the final, was also honoured as the Young Best Player, while the newly-promoted Ivorian coach, Emerse Faé, was named the Best Coach of the competition. Bafana Bafana of South Africa, despite finishing third, was recognised with the Fair Play Award.
Looking ahead, the excitement of AFCON continues as Morocco prepares to host the next edition of the tournament next year.