Ivory Coast bounce back to beat Nigeria to win AFCON 2023 after coach sacked mid-tournament

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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 a goal down at Stade Alassane Ouattara in a fitting finale to a memorable tournament.

Frank Casey and Sebastian Heller scored crucial goals for Emers Fay’s men after William Troost-Ekong had given Jose Pacero’s Super Eagles the lead and limited the hosts’ comeback to a most unlikely win.

Former manager Jean-Louis Gasset was sacked midway through the tournament, paving the way for Fay to take over as caretaker boss and lead his country against defending champions Senegal on penalties, Mali in extra time and DR Congo en route to the knockout stages. final

It completed a remarkable turnaround for the home nation, who were on the brink of elimination in Group A after defeats against the Nigerians and Equatorial Guinea, to survive and go all the way from there as only one of the best third-placed sides.

Nigeria emerged as the other finalists after beating Cameroon, Angola and eventually third-placed South Africa and took the lead after 38 minutes with a looping Trust-Akong header that lasted just over an hour.

It was a second header this time for Ivory Coast, who leveled things on 62 minutes when Simon Edingra notched the first of his two assists when he tipped KC’s unmarked header past Stanley Nwabili.

It was Edingra who also scored the winner nine minutes from time as he whipped the ball home to Heller and complete a remarkable personal story after the Borussia Dortmund man’s battle with testicular cancer.

Nigeria were unable to respond despite adding considerable time late on and the Ivory Coast confirmed their third title to take them level with the Super Eagles and spark cheers at the Stade Alassane Ouattara.

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

The Ivorians last won in 2015 but this is the first time the host nation has won the AFCON title on home soil since record seven-time winners Egypt in 2006 when the Elephants were runners-up.

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