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Sebastien Haller’s late winner completes fairytale comeback as hosts Ivory Coast crowned Champions of Africa

Cancer survivor Sebastien Haller inspired hosts Ivory Coast to their third Africa Cup of Nations title with a late winner to seal a 2-1 comeback win over Nigeria in Abidjan.

Five of the last six host nations to reach the final had won the AFCON title, but the Ivory Coast’s appearance in this edition at one point looked unlikely, their 4-0 group-stage defeat to Equatorial Guinea leading to the mid-tournament sacking of Jean-Louis Gasset.

The resurgent Elephants, who under caretaker boss Emerse Fae earned the nickname ‘the Zombies’, fell behind when Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong headed in a 38th-minute opener against the run of play, but it was cancelled out by Franck Kessie in the second half.

With less than 10 minutes remaining, Haller, who in July 2022 was diagnosed with testicular cancer and returned to action with Borussia Dortmund just over a year ago, found the finishing touch to send the 60,000-seat Alassane Ouattara Stadium into raptures.

Sebastien Haller’s late goal secured victory for Ivory Coast

Former West Ham striker Haller looked to fire his side into an early lead when he flicked Simon Adingra’s cross wide of Stanley Nwabali’s right post, and, while the Elephants did not make much of a handful of early set-pieces, the hosts controlled more of the opening action than their more cautious opponents.

Max Gradel, playing in his fifth Afcon, sent a bicycle kick from the Ivory Coast’s third corner into the side-netting, and there were little in the way of chances for Nigeria by just after the 25-minute mark, when a brief scuffle ensued after Victor Osimhen insisted he had been unduly elbowed by Evan Ndicka.

Nigeria boss Jose Peseiro was booked for a subsequent protest before temperatures and tempers were cooled

Read more on independent.co.uk