ABIDJAN: Sebastien Haller climaxed a remarkable recovery from serious illness by scoring the 81st-minute winner as hosts Ivory Coast claimed a third Africa Cup of Nations with a 2-1 victory over Nigeria at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan. Yet the Ivorians had barely scraped out of their group after two defeats, including a humiliating 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea.

William Troost-Ekong’s header gave Nigeria a first-half lead as he rose to meet Samuel Chukwueze’s flick-on from a corner, but Franck Kessie equalised just past the hour-mark after being left unmarked at the back post from a set-piece.

The Ivorians had to come from behind several times in the tournament and did it again when Haller steered Simon Adingra’s cross into the net, much to the delight of coach Emerse Fae – who had started the tournament as assistant to later-sacked Frenchman Jean-Louis Gasset.

Haller had also been the matchwinner in the semi-final win over DR Congo. He had explained the full story of his recovery from testicular cancer on the eve of the final, saying: “Given what has happened over the last few months, it’s great to be here in front of you.”

In July 2022 Haller had been diagnosed with testicular cancer, two weeks after joining German club Borussia Dortmund. After two surgeries and chemotherapy, Haller returned to full training in early January 2023. An ankle injury kept him out of the group stage of the finals but his return brought title-winning good fortune.

Ivory Coast had previously won the Nations Cup on penalties against Ghana in both 1992 and 2015 while losing two other finals.

Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro said: “Our team had a fantastic tournament but today Ivory Coast were better. We didn’t didn’t show our true level. It was not the same job as we did in the previous rounds.”

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