Ivory Coast’s path to the AFCON 2024 final has been nothing short of a divine drama.

As the hosts prepare to face Nigeria in the final, the question on every fan’s mind is whether the Elephants can seize their third AFCON title and complete a tale of extraordinary resurgence.

Initially facing an early exit after a crushing 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast’s journey seemed over with a disheartening -3 goal difference. Yet, fate had other plans. As they gear up for Sunday’s clash against Nigeria, the stage is set for a thrilling end to the tournament.

The roller-coaster of emotions for the home supporters has been palpable. From the depths of despair to the pinnacle of hope, the team has rallied, driven by a blend of sheer talent and fortuitous twists, to vie for ultimate glory. The anticipation is palpable across the Ivory Coast.

Blockbuster Final

For the first time in 67 years, Ivory Coast and Nigeria face off in an AFCON final, a historic event for African football. It’s a duel of fate – Ivory Coast seeks retribution for their group stage defeat, while Nigeria aims to reaffirm their dominance after their earlier 1-0 victory.

AFCON Pedigree

Ivory Coast have reached the AFCON final four times, winning the trophy twice, on both occasions at Ghana’s expense and on both occasions in sudden-death penalties.

On the other two occasions Ivory Coast reached the final, they also lost on penalties, first to Egypt in 2006 and then to Zambia six years later.

On Sunday, they will make history by either winning or losing the trophy in regulation time or extra time. Or history will repeat itself, and they will win or lose on penalties.

Prior to the current tournament, Nigeria had reached the AFCON final seven times, emerging triumphant three times.

The Super Eagles’ last AFCON triumph came in 2023 in South Africa under the guidance of the late Stephen Keshi. Ahmed Musah and Kenneth Ameruo, who both played in that final, are part of the current Super Eagles squad.

The Caretaker’s Tale

Emerse Fae, the unforeseen hero, stepped up from assistant manager to head coach following the departure of Jean-Louis Gasset. Fae, a former Portsmouth midfielder, could etch his name in history if he leads Ivory Coast to victory as a mid-tournament managerial appointment.

Luck of the Hosts

Ivory Coast’s squad is as talented as any at this tournament. However, there is no doubt that the hosts have also benefited from a huge slice of luck.

Results went their way in the group stages to keep them in the competition when they had looked dead and buried.

The win over Senegal in the last-16 to eliminate the much-fancied defending champions who had qualified for the knockout phase with a 100% record was arguably Ivory Coast’s best performance at the tournament.

The Elephants had looked on their way out until Franck Kessie converted a late penalty to force extra-time. Ivory Coast would prevail on penalties to give Fae a winning start, a case of the new manager bounce.

The good fortune continued in the quarterfinal. Ivory Coast needed a last-gasp extra-time winner despite playing with a numerical advantage from late in the first half of regulation time after Mali had a player sent off.

Sebastian Haller’s winner against plucky DRC in the semifinals was not the cleanest of acrobatic strikes, but  in keeping with the hosts’ luck throughout the tournament, the ball looped over the goalkeeper and the goal would prove the difference between the two sides.

To reach the final, Ivory Coast pulled qualification for the knockout phase from the jaws of certain elimination. Will the hosts’ luck hold on Sunday?

Join the conversation and share your predictions for the AFCON 2023 final. Can the Elephants triumph, or will the Super Eagles soar? Comment on X AFCON2023 and be part of the historic showdown.


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

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