Picture : Sebastien Haller's so important goal !
Ivory Coast vs Nigeria for AFCON Final.
The two teams emerged from two great semifinals during which there was much to cheer.
Nigeria 1(4) 1(2) South Africa
The invincibility demonstrated by South African keeper, Willams Rowen when he stopped four penalties during the quarterfinals was ruthlessly derided when in their semifinals penalty shootout with Nigeria he didn’t as much as stop a single shot. Both teams had played to a 1-1 score after 120 minutes of play in the Stade de la Paix, Bouaké. A heavily defensive South African side kept the incisive Nigerian attack at bay and only caving in on 66 minutes from the penalty spot courtesy of captain William Troost Ekong. Victor Osimhen had provoked the penalty when he marshaled his way in between a foursome before Mothobi Mvala fouled him inside the box. The kicker duplicated the same showing against the same keeper four years after Egypt 2019. An 84th minute masterly save by Keeper Rowen kept South African hopes alive just before a dramatic penalty would be awarded them for the equalizer seconds to full time courtesy of Grant Kekana. In the shootout lottery, eventual Mvp, keeper Stanley Nwabali stopped two shots as Nigeria lost just one to ill-targeting as against two goals, and prevailing.
Ivory Coast 1 0 DR Congo
The showdown in the Alassane Dramane Ouattara Stadium Epimbé was tailored to meet deserving aspirations. The DR Congo, for their sixth AFCON confrontation yet with the Ivory Coast stepped into the arena with black armbands in memory of the massacre back home of citizens in their Goma neighborhood. They took off finding the net in the ninth minute but the goal was invalidated as Cédric Bakambu had kicked out of the keeper’s hands. Sébastien Haller barely missed opening scores had his header not sailed wide on 41 minutes. A further attempt by Frank Kessie found the upright just before recess. It took 20 minutes into resumption for Haller to find the net in a reaction from a captain Max Gradel incursion from the flank. The scorer could still have achieved a brace had he not again headed wide three minutes later. And so as the Mvp award went to the day’s scorer, the question already being asked was whether the Ivorian resurrection could evolve into a celestial ascension in next Sunday’s final against Nigeria in the Alassane Dramane Ouattara Stadium as from 9 pm. Before then the bronze medal game would have pitted DR Congo against South Africa 24 hours earlier.