Sebastian Haller, the Ivory Coast forward, was overcome with emotion as he spoke about his team’s victory in the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 final against Nigeria. Haller, who battled and defeated testicular cancer, scored the winning goal in the 81st minute to secure a 2-1 win for Ivory Coast.
Reflecting on the triumph, Haller said, “We dreamed of this moment so many times. We hoped to get to this point and once again the match wasn’t an easy one. The joyous scenes we see now, what’s happening in the country, they deserve it too. I really hope it does a lot of people good.”
Ivory Coast’s journey to the AFCON title was filled with challenges both on and off the pitch. Head coach Jean-Louis Gasset was sacked after a heavy 4-0 defeat in the final group stage match against Equatorial Guinea. However, Ivory Coast managed to qualify for the knockout stages as one of the best third-placed teams.
Under the guidance of interim boss Emerse Fae, Ivory Coast staged dramatic comebacks in the knockout rounds, defeating Senegal and Mali with late goals. Haller’s crucial goal in the semi-final against DR Congo paved the way for Ivory Coast’s victory in the final.
Interim boss Fae described the team’s journey as more than a fairytale, stating, “When I think back to everything we went through during the competition, the difficult moments, the times when we were behind and came back at the last minute, it’s extraordinary. We’re miraculous, we went and got the cup because we didn’t give up because we fought right to the end and we showed that we know how to bounce back despite the hard times.”
Ivory Coast’s triumph in the AFCON final marks their third title in the tournament’s history, with their last victory coming in 2015. The team’s resilience and determination throughout the tournament have made them deserving champions.