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Ivory Coast fight back to edge Nigeria and win AFCON 2023 after firing coach mid tournament

Ivory Coast have won the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations after a 2-1 victory over Nigeria in Abidjan on Sunday with the Elephants coming from one goal down to triumph at Stade Alassane Ouattara in a fitting finale to a memorable tournament.

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Franck Kessie and Sebastien Haller scored the crucial goals for Emerse Fae’s men after William Troost-Ekong had given Jose Peseiro’s Super Eagles the lead and capped the hosts’ comeback for the most unexpected of triumphs.

Former manager Jean-Louis Gasset was dismissed midway through the tournament, which paved the way for Fae to come in as caretaker boss and lead his country past defending champions Senegal on penalties, Mali in extra time and DR Congo in the knockout phase route to the final.

It completed a remarkable turnaround for the home nation having been on the verge of elimination in Group A after defeats to the Nigerians and Equatorial Guinea only to survive as one of the best third-placed sides and advance all the way from there. 

Nigeria emerged as the other finalists after seeing off Cameroon, Angola and eventual third-placed South Africa and they took the lead through a looping Troost-Ekong header after 38 minutes which held until just after the hour.

It was another header, this time for Ivory Coast, which leveled things up on 62 minutes when Simon Adingra notched the first of his two assists when teeing up Kessie’s unmarked header to beat Stanley Nwabili.

It was Adingra who also set up the winner nine minutes from time as he whipped the ball in for Haller to flick home and complete a remarkable personal story after the Borussia Dortmund man’s battle with testicular cancer.

Nigeria were unable to find a response despite significant time added on at the end and Ivory Coast confirmed their third title which moves them level with the Super Eagles and sparked jubilation at Stade Alassane Ouattara.

Legendary former Ivory Coast international Didier Drogba was present in Abidjan and was seen joining in the celebrations as the hosts completed their miraculous recovery to triumph much to the delight of just over 60,000 spectators.

The Ivorians last triumphed back in 2015 but this was the first time that a host national has won an AFCON title on home soil since record seven-time winners Egypt back in 2006 when the Elephants were runners-up.

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