Afcon 2023 final: Nigeria vs Ivory Coast date

09 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
Afcon 2023 final: Nigeria vs Ivory Coast date Nigeria’s Victory Osimhen and Ivory Coast’s Sebastien Haller are expected to lead the line for their countries in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations finals

The ManicaPost

 

AN enthralling final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) is looming after Nigeria and tournament hosts Ivory Coast avoided potential upsets in the last four.

In a tournament which has seen a number of fancied sides fall by the wayside, the two teams left standing are both former champions.

Nigeria have lifted the trophy three times, in 1980, 1994 and 2013, while Ivory Coast triumphed in 1992 and 2015.

The Super Eagles needed a penalty shootout to overcome South Africa in the semi-finals following a dramatic 1-1 draw which had seen Bafana Bafana net a 90th-minute spot-kick to equalise.

Ivory Coast then secured a 1-0 win over DR Congo, becoming the first tournament hosts to reach the final since Egypt won the Nations Cup on home soil in 2006.

The Elephants, who only made the knockout stages as a best third-placed side, had produced a thrilling quarter-final win over Mali to make the last four after beating holders Senegal on spot-kicks in the last 16.

The two countries met earlier on in the tournament in a Group A encounter, with Nigeria winning though William Troost-Ekong’s second-half penalty.

BBC Sport Africa provides you with all the information on the 34th edition of Africa’s biggest sporting event.

Who are the players to watch in the final?

Nigeria are technically the favourites for the final, given Jose Peseiro’s side are seven places above their West African rivals in Fifa’s world rankings.

The Super Eagles boast the reigning African Footballer of the Year in the shape of Victor Osimhen, but the Napoli striker has only scored one goal at the finals.

That is not for the want of trying though, with the 25-year-old having the most shots on goal and accumulating the highest expected goals tally at the tournament, as well as having a late goal against South Africa ruled out.

Ademola Lookman has netted three goals for Nigeria, while captain Troost-Ekong has scored two high-pressure spot kicks.

Goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali, meanwhile, was on the brink of a fifth successive clean sheet before being beaten by Teboho Mokoena’s late penalty in the semi-final.

However the Chippa United man then saved two South African penalties to help Nigeria reach their first final since 2013.

In coastal Abidjan, Sebastien Haller netted the winner for Ivory Coast in their semi-final against DR Congo, in what was the Borussia Dortmund striker’s first start at the tournament.

Elephants winger Simon Adingra is also fit again, while Franck Kessie and Seko Fofana have helped drive the hosts forward through midfield and Evan Ndicka has played every minute at centre-back.

The final could cap a remarkable journey for interim coach Emerse Fae, who could win Africa’s most prestigious trophy in just his fourth game in charge of his country.

The 40-year-old was thrust into the limelight following the sacking of Jean-Louis Gasset after an underwhelming group stage campaign which saw the Elephants finish behind Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria.

Who has impressed – and who has not?

Many bookmakers had Senegal down as favourites to retain the title they won for the first time in Cameroon – and they justified that faith by reaching the last 16 with a 100 percent record.

However, the Teranga Lions could not get past Ivory Coast despite taking an early lead in their last-16 tie.

Elsewhere, the most impressive performances came from relatively unheralded nations Equatorial Guinea and Cape Verde, both topping groups they were given little chance in.

But the National Thunder fell by the wayside against Guinea, with tournament top scorer Emilio Nsue missing a penalty.

Cape Verde won Group B, astonishingly finishing above Ghana and Egypt, who were robbed of Mohamed Salah through injury in their second game of the competition.

But it was a painful end for the Blue Sharks whose Nations Cup run came crashing down in the quarter-finals with a penalties loss to South Africa.

Angola were surprising winners of Group D, with captain Fredy and forwards Mabululu and Gelson Dala their stand-out performers.

The Palancas Negras were impressive in their last 16 win over Namibia but found Nigeria’s defence much harder to penetrate in the quarter-finals, where they were ousted by the Super Eagles.

As for Nigeria, they had eased through to the knock-out stages in solid, if unspectacular, fashion, but have grown into the tournament and emerged as the team to beat.

Morocco, meanwhile, were expected to be strong challengers following their historic run to the semi-finals at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar but the Atlas Lions were upset 2-0 by South Africa in the last 16 and their long wait for a second continental title will now stretch closer to half a century.

But some other big names have struggled — not least Ivory Coast early on, as the hosts were left sweating to qualify among the four best third-placed sides after losing two of their three group games.

The Elephants redeemed themselves against Senegal and then Mali, and could yet register a third Nations Cup title.

Cameroon also laboured, squeezing through their group before being sent packing by Nigeria, while fellow former winners Ghana, Algeria and Tunisia each only managed two points apiece in the group stage. — BBCsport.

 

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