Afcon final: Fae hails Ivory Coast's 'miracle survivors' as hosts beat Nigeria
Ivory Coast coach Emerse Fae hailed his "miracle survivors" after the host country completed one of the greatest turnarounds in tournament history to win the Africa Cup of Nations, beating favourites Nigeria in Sunday's final.
"It is more than a fairytale. I am struggling to take it all in," said Fae, who only took charge of the team midway through the tournament after the dismissal of Jean-Louis Gasset.
"When I think about all we have been through, we are miracle survivors.
"We never gave up and we managed to come back from so many tough blows."
It was only fitting then that Sebastien Haller, whose tournament was disrupted by injury and who only returned to competitive action last year after treatment for cancer, would score a dramatic late winner as Ivory Coast fought back to claim a 2-1 victory.
Nigeria looked set to repeat their 1-0 victory over the Ivorians at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium during the group stage when captain William Troost-Ekong – who had netted a penalty to decide that first meeting – rose to head in the opener late in the first half.
However, Franck Kessie equalised just after the hour mark and Haller turned in Simon Adingra's cross in the 81st minute to spark wild celebrations among the sea of orange in the Abidjan stands.
Sunday's victory before an official attendance of over 57,000 in Abidjan allowed the Elephants to win their third continental title.
They are the first host country to win the Cup of Nations since Egypt in 2006, and yet they very nearly went out in the group stage.
The Ivorians lost 1-0 to Nigeria in their second match before losing 4-0 to Equatorial Guinea, their heaviest-ever home defeat.
That made them the first Afcon hosts in 40 years to lose two group games and cost coach