Ivory Coast celebrates its third African football championship. The “Elefantit”, which hosted this year’s games, rose from the brink of a disaster to become champions.
The Ivory Coast men’s national football team’s African Championship came close to turning into a colossal disaster.
The host country of the Games played really poorly in its initial group, losing two games out of three matches. Elefantit advanced to the playoffs thanks to the comparison of the group threes, as the last possible team. Served as head coach Jean-Louis Gasset got to leave after the initial block and Emerse Faé was elevated to commander-in-chief.
But, anything can happen in value races.
Ivory Coast first knocked off reigning champions Senegal in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals. Next, in the quarter-finals, Mali came second to the hosts Oumar Diakite thanks to an overtime goal. The elephant march continued in the semi-finals when Ivory Coast’s star player Sebastien Haller hit a goal into the DRC’s net, guaranteeing the hosts a place in the finals.
In the final, Nigeria took the lead in the opening period, but Ivory Coast refused to budge. Franck Kessie scored the equalizer after an hour of play and Haller released the home crowd to immeasurable joy ten minutes before the end of the regular game time.
When the final whistle blew, a national icon, an African champion and a Chelsea legend Didier Drogba ran fanning around the stand. Ivory Coast is now celebrating its third African Championship.
The star striker Haller became the biggest hero, whose movement after the match was noticed around the world.
From a cancer patient to the decider of the championship
Haller, 29, who represents Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in the summer of 2022. The skilled top player underwent surgery and faced several months of chemotherapy. Haller’s return to the playing fields was by no means certain.
However, the cancer treatments were slow. Haller returned to professional pitches in an official league game on January 22, 2023. Just two weeks after his Dortmund debut, he scored a goal against Freiburg, on no other occasion than World Cancer Day.
Just 18 months after his cancer diagnosis, Haller is the national hero who decided the African championship.
Haller began his TV interview with the French beIN Sports channel with, but started to tear up almost immediately. Haller was interviewed by a former French national team player Basile Bol noticed this and grabbed the star under his arm. Haller soon covered his face with his jersey and Boli caught him in his arms with tears in his eyes.
– We dreamed about this so many times, Haller told Bol in an interview later.
– We were hoping to get this opportunity, and this match was by no means easy for us. All this joy that we see around us, everything that is happening in our country now, is deserved. All Ivorians deserve it. I hope so much that all this will be good for our people, he continued.
For Haller, the competitions were upbeat. Former head coach Gasset didn’t put his Bundesliga player in the starting line-up, but Faé did. Haller thanked by hitting two winning goals starting at the quarter-final stage.