The Africa Cup of Nations concludes on Sunday as Ivory Coast purpose to finish a outstanding turnaround in fortunes by changing into the primary host nation to win the title in 18 years once they meet the Nigeria of Victor Osimhen within the remaining.
The match begins at 2000 GMT on the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium on the outskirts of Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s financial capital, the venue the place Nigeria defeated the match hosts 1-0 through the group stage.
After a month of competitors, probably the most thrilling AFCON in latest reminiscence has thrown up an interesting heavyweight remaining showdown between two West African footballing powerhouses.
Eleven years after they had been final topped continental champions, Nigeria are aiming to win their fourth title and in doing so match the tally of previous rivals Ghana — solely Egypt with seven, and Cameroon with 5, have received the Cup of Nations extra typically.
Ivory Coast, in the meantime, will match Nigeria on three titles in the event that they emerge victorious on the Cup of Nations for the primary time since 2015.
The Elephants are the primary host nation to make it to the ultimate since 2006, when Egypt defeated the Ivorians on penalties in Cairo to take the trophy.
But they very almost turned simply the second host nation in 30 years to exit within the group stage after a disastrous 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea on January 22, their heaviest ever house defeat.
The shellshocked Ivorians parted firm with coach Jean-Louis Gasset, all hope of reaching the final 16 apparently gone, earlier than being rescued as a collection of beneficial outcomes elsewhere allowed them to undergo among the many finest third-placed sides.
Below interim coach Emerse Fae, their revival has been fairly unbelievable.
Ivory Coast eradicated holders Senegal on penalties in capital Yamoussoukro within the final 16, then got here from behind — regardless of being decreased to 10 males within the first half — to beat Mali 2-1 in Bouake within the quarter-finals, with a winner proper on the finish of additional time.
They then returned to Ebimpe to beat the Democratic Republic of Congo within the semis because of a solitary Sebastien Haller strike.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” stated Haller, the Borussia Dortmund striker, on Saturday.
“While you sink as little as we did, we not had any alternative. Our backs had been towards the wall. We needed to take have a look at ourselves and kind issues out.”
Fae had by no means managed a staff earlier than being thrust into the highlight mid-tournament.
A participant alongside Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers within the Elephants facet that misplaced that 2006 remaining, Fae is now hoping to observe within the footsteps of Senegal’s Aliou Cisse, who additionally misplaced a remaining as a participant earlier than profitable as coach in Cameroon in 2022.
“Now we have a terrific alternative to maintain the trophy at house,” stated Fae, who should absolutely now be a contender to take the job on a everlasting foundation regardless of the consequence on Sunday.
Ivory Coast’s chaotic marketing campaign has been in stark distinction to that of Nigeria beneath their veteran Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro.
Accidents and unconvincing type meant there have been severe doubts concerning the Tremendous Eagles coming into the match.
They started with a disappointing 1-1 draw towards Equatorial Guinea, however Peseiro responded by deploying a brand new system that includes three central defenders, and the outcomes have been excellent.
Nigeria have solely conceded one objective of their final 5 matches, and that was a penalty within the semi-final towards South Africa.
Reigning African footballer of the 12 months Osimhen has solely scored one objective at this AFCON, however his tireless performances have been eye-catching with the Napoli striker clearly pushed by a burning want to win the title.
“We’re proud of what now we have executed to this point however now we simply need to win,” admitted Peseiro on Saturday.
Nigeria had been ready on the health of wing-back Zaidu Sanusi, whereas Fae revealed that a number of Ivory Coast gamers had been fighting knocks after the semi-final.
Nevertheless, Serge Aurier, Odilon Kossounou, Christian Kouame and Oumar Diakite will hope to return after lacking the DR Congo tie as a result of suspension.
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