Haller goal knocks out DR Congo, takes Ivory Coast into AFCON 2024 final
Sebastien Haller emerged as the star player with the singular goal of the match, leading Ivory Coast to a 1-0 victory over the Democratic Republic of Congo. With this win on Wednesday, Ivory Coast advanced to the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Published on: February 7th, 2024 at 11:36 PM.
Beginning his tournament debut after recovering from an injury, Borussia Dortmund's forward Haller made a connection with a cross from Max-Alain Gradel and scored in the 65th minute at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium. His shot went over the goalie and found its way into the net.
The semi-final match was nerve-wracking but was ultimately settled. The Ivorian team emerged victorious and will be competing against Nigeria in the finals on Sunday to determine the champion.
It is absolutely impressive for the hosts, who are two-time champions, to make it to the finals of the Cup of Nations - a feat that has not been accomplished since Egypt did so in 2006. Their resurgence is unbelievable, considering that they were on the verge of elimination during the group stage.
On the other hand, it was a very painful loss for the DR Congo team, who had been hoping to reach the AFCON final for the first time since they were crowned as champions under the name Zaire in 1974.
On the day of this game, Ivory Coast's performance in the tournament was referred to as a "miracle" by their caretaker coach Emerse Fae. He took over the team after their former coach Jean-Louis Gasset was fired due to poor results in the earlier rounds.
Feeling embarrassed and at the brink of being kicked out, they experienced a 4-0 loss against Equatorial Guinea on January 22. Their recent game took place in Ebimpe Olympic Stadium located in the dusty outskirts of Abidjan.
The Elephants barely made it to the round of 16 as the very last of the top four third-placed teams. However, they managed to eliminate the current champions, Senegal, in a penalty shootout.
Afterwards, they managed to defeat Mali during the quarter-finals even though they played with only 10 team members for most of the game. The winning goal was achieved during extra time's additional minutes.
Oumar Diakite, who scored the winning goal in the game against Mali, was given a red card during his celebration. As a result, he and three other players, Serge Aurier, Odilon Kossounou, and Christian Kouame, were suspended.
Several players joined the team, including Simon Adingra, the winger from Brighton who scored the tying goal against Mali, and Haller, the influential forward who had recovered completely from injury.
The Democratic Republic of Congo sought revenge for their previous loss against Ivory Coast during the AFCON semi-finals back in 2015, where they were defeated 3-1.
The determination of the team members to raise awareness of the plight of millions of Congolese affected by the ongoing violence in the eastern part of the country has motivated them throughout the tournament.
During the recent event, the team from Congo expressed their protest by using the national anthem. They covered their mouths with one hand and at the same time, gestured with the other hand as if it were a gun and pointed it towards their heads.
Seemingly undaunted by the unfriendly audience, the Leopards began strongly and managed to score a goal in the ninth minute.
Cedric Bakambu managed to get the ball away from Yahia Fofana when the goalkeeper was unable to hold on, and kicked it into the corner of the goal. However, the goal was invalidated by the Libyan referee because of a foul.
The Ivorians had the best opportunities during the initial 45 minutes and their level of danger increased as the break drew near.
Haller found himself alone in the penalty area and attempted to score with his head from a perfect pass by Wilfried Singo, but unfortunately missed the goal in the 40th minute. Shortly after, Franck Kessie hit the post with a strong shot.
Before the 60th minute, Kessie made another threat with a strong shot that made the goalkeeper, Lionel Mpasi, react. However, shortly after that, they managed to score a goal.
Max-Alain Gradel made a cross from the right side of the field to the box. Haller kicked the ball with an uncertain feeling, not expecting much. Although he didn't hit the ball perfectly, it bounced on the ground and then elegantly went over Mpasi's head and into the goal, leaving him unable to do anything.
Wild parties followed, as Fae jumped around in his designated section.
After that, the home team attempted to score more goals. Haller used his head to hit the top part of the net after Adingra delivered a corner. He missed a chance to score after sending the ball too far when he only had Mpasi to beat.
A single objective sufficed and a thunderous cheer welcomed the end signal.