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AFCON 2023: Hosts Cote d’Ivoire to face Nigeria in final showdown



Hosts Cote d’Ivoire will lock horns with Nigeria in a final showdown of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Abidjan.

Our correspondent reports that Cote d’Ivoire booked a ticket to the AFCON final after beating DR Congo 1-0 thanks to Sebastien Haller’s goal.

Haller was the matchwinner in Wednesday’s semi-final, superbly flicking in Nicolas Pepe’s cross to break Congolese hearts.

His goal has thus knocked the Leopards out, setting up this fascinating clash in Sunday’s final.

The Borussia Dortmund hitman has established himself in the Elephants after recovering from testicular cancer.

Now, the 29-year-old returns intent on breaking Nigerian hearts.

Haller will spearhead the Cote d’Ivoire attack alongside Pepe as they target a historic triumph.

Victory would spark jubilation in Abidjan given this AFCON is on home soil.

After struggling in their group, the Elephants have momentum despite unconvincing performances.

Against DR Congo, they rode their luck, with Cedric Bakambu having a goal disallowed.

But Haller’s quality shone through as he rifled home to book Cote d’Ivoire’s passage.

The Super Eagles, on their part, had largely made light work of all before them at this year’s AFCON.

But they were forced into a dramatic penalty shootout by a dogged South Africa side in the semi-finals.

Kelechi Iheanacho scored the winning spot-kick to put Nigeria within touching distance of a fourth continental crown and first since 2013.

Though 1992 and 2015 champions Coted’Ivoire have been on quite the journey themselves over recent weeks, but Nigeria will prove a sterner test.

The striker, who is in great form, threatens to inspire Cote d’Ivoire to their first AFCON crown since 2015.

Our correspondent reports that the Stade olympique Alassane-Ouattara d’Ebimpé in Abidjan will host the final on Sunday from 8.00 p.m.

Victor Okoye

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