Sebastien Haller of Cote dIvoire celebrates goal during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final match between Nigeria and Cote dIvoire at Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan, Cote dIvoire on 11 February ©Weam Mostafa/BackpagePix
Monday Feb 12, 2024. 13:09
Ivory Coast interim coach Emerse Fae described their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations triumph as a miracle after the hosts battled back from behind to beat Nigeria 2-1 in the final on Sunday.
The Elephants bossed proceedings in front of a packed partisan crowd at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium, but found themselves trailing to William Troost-Ekong’s header in the 38th minute.
However, Fae’s side came out in the second half with renewed belief and hit back through Franck Kessie on 62 minutes before Sebastien Haller completed the fairytale win eight minutes from time.
Fae hailed the fighting spirit of his players throughout the tournament as they looked dead and buried on numerous occasions, but turned things around to lift the AFCON trophy for the third time in their history.
“It’s difficult for me to realise this all right now,” said Fae, who had only been handed the reins on January 24 after Jean-Louis Gasset was sacked in the wake of a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea which almost led to an early exit at the group stages.
“When I think about all we went through, the hard times when we almost out, and the matches where we came back in last minutes, we have created some miracles.
“But it is also because we kept fighting to the last minute when the odds were against us. We feel relief first after all the difficulties. We were close to humiliation but when we had a second chance, we were determined not to waste it.
“At half-time in the change room we just talked with the players about keeping fighting and putting pressure on Nigeria.
“We had started the game well and had good control, setting up opportunities but we lost focus and Nigeria scored against the run of play. But we always believe we could comeback because Nigeria looked exhausted.”