HomeSports And EntertainmentAFCON: Tinubu Consoles As Nigeria Lose Cup To Hosts Ivory Coast, 2-1

AFCON: Tinubu Consoles As Nigeria Lose Cup To Hosts Ivory Coast, 2-1

Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has saluted the Super Eagles who drew first blood but suffered a 2-1 loss to hosts Ivory Coast in the final of the African Cup of Nations at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan on Sunday.

Sebastien Haller scored the winning goal nine minutes from the end to allow hosts Ivory Coast claim their third Africa Cup of Nations title on Sunday.

It was a triumph born from adversity as the Ivorians had scraped out of their group following two defeats, including a humiliating 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea, before finding their form in the knockout rounds with a never-say-die attitude that led them to the title.

William Troost-Ekong’s header gave Nigeria a first-half lead as he rose to meet Samuel Chukwueze’s flick-on from a corner, but Franck Kessie equalised just past the hour-mark after being left unmarked at the back post from a set-piece.

The Ivorians had to come from behind several times in the tournament and did it again when Haller steered Simon Adingra’s cross into the net, much to the delight of his rookie coach Emerse Fae, who had started the tournament as assistant to Frenchman Jean-Louis Gasset, who was sacked after the pool stage.

“It’s the power of the group and the mindset that put us through. We had some challenging moments but we rescued ourselves, although it wasn’t easy. The mental fortitude saw us restore our chances and do what we achieved today,” said Ivorian man of the match Adingra.

Borussia Dortmund forward Haller was diagnosed with testicular cancer in July 2022 but beat the disease and has been a crucial player for the Ivorians, though he missed the start of the tournament with an ankle injury, playing his first game in the last-16 win over defending champions Senegal.

His story epitomises the fight in the Ivorian side, who became the first home nation to lift the Cup of Nations since Egypt in 2006.

All four of their previous continental finals had finished 0-0, with them winning on penalties in 1992 and 2015, both times against Ghana, and losing the other two.

The home side controlled much of this year’s final as Adingra was denied by a fine save from Nigeria goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali, before the visitors took the lead with their first effort on target on 38 minutes.

Troost-Ekong headed into the net when Ademola Lookman’s corner was flicked on by Chukwueze and the Nigerian captain won the second ball ahead of Serge Aurier.

The hosts had an excellent chance to equalise early in the second half when the ball fell to Max Gradel in the box but his fierce shot was blocked by Calvin Bassey.

Nwabali had to beat away a superb long-range shot from Adingra but from the resulting corner Ivory Coast equalised when Kessie was left unmarked at the back post and headed into the net.

It was the home side who pushed for the winner and came close when Haller attempted a spectacular overhead kick, but the ball flashed wide of goal.

The tall striker did not have to wait long for his goal though as moments later he steered Adingra’s whipped cross into the net to crown a fantastic story.

“Our team had a fantastic tournament but today Ivory Coast was better,” Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro said. “Our team didn’t show our level. That’s the truth. It was not the same job as we did in the previous rounds.”

In a State House Press Release, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu hailed the Super Eagles as having demonstrated the great resilience and talent that epitomised the people of Nigeria.

The full statement of the President, issued by Chief Ajuri Ngelale, his Special Adviser to on Media and Publicity, said:

“President Bola Tinubu salutes the Super Eagles of Nigeria for their tenacious performance in the final of the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Côte d’Ivoire.

“President Tinubu commends the team, the coach, the crew, and the entire management team for their hard work, assiduity, and sacrifice to come this far in the tournament, acknowledging the hurdles they consistently surpassed with steadily improving performance as they pulled through to the finals.

“The President urges Nigerians to be of good cheer, emphasizing that we won a great victory in the hearts of Africa and the world by our grit, rigour, and determination in the field of play.

“Let this passing event not dispirit us, but bring us together to work harder. We are a great nation bound as one by the green-white-green banner of resilience, joy, hope, duty, and untiring love. To those cherished Nigerian youths expressing their gifts in communities, drawing lines in the sand as they play football in their humble rectangles of play, you can be our heroes tomorrow, do not relent in your pursuit. My administration is here to make dreams come true,” the President says.

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