Nigeria is set to square off against hosts Ivory Coast in what promises to be a captivating climax to the 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Both teams have showcased impressive performances throughout the tournament, setting the stage for an exhilarating battle for the prestigious title.
“A national team is a driver for the nation’s pride.”Sebastien Desabre, DR Congo Head Coach.
The Dramatic Penalty Shootout
The Super Eagles clashed with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in an evenly contested semifinal decided by an intense penalty shootout. Nigeria emerged victorious, securing a spot in the final against Ivory Coast.
The match initially seemed to sway in Nigeria’s favour when William Troost-Ekong, Nigeria’s captain, netted a penalty in the 67th minute, courtesy of a dazzling run by Victor Osimhen.
However, Bafana Bafana retaliated, with Teboho Mokoena converting a penalty to level the score at 1-1. The game proceeded to extra time, with both teams striving for a breakthrough.
As the clock ticked on, the tension escalated. A pivotal moment arose when Terem Moffi, a substitute for The Super Eagles, was fouled just outside the box, resulting in a red card for South Africa’s Grant Kekana. This turn of events set the stage for a nerve-wracking penalty shootout.
Penalty Shootout Heroics
In the shootout, Nigeria’s goalkeeper, Stanley Nwabili, showcased remarkable skill, saving crucial shots and ultimately securing victory for his team. Despite South Africa’s valiant efforts, Nigeria emerged triumphant, clinching a hard-fought win and advancing to the showdown.
Haller Secures Ivory Coast’s Final Berth
Sebastien Haller propelled Ivory Coast into the Africa Cup of Nations final with a decisive 1-0 victory over Congo DR in Wednesday’s semifinal match.
Haller’s goal in the 65th minute at the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium marked a significant moment in Ivory Coast’s remarkable turnaround.
The Ivorian team has staged an impressive recovery and will now face Nigeria in Sunday’s showdown, despite facing near elimination in the group phase.
DR Congo’s Tribute
DR Congo’s players covered their mouths during the national anthem—a symbolic gesture conveying solidarity with the victims in the eastern region of the Congo.
Congo DR players chose to display a powerful act of solidarity rather than singing their national anthem.
Amid domestic instability and political turmoil stemming from disputed elections at the close of 2023, Congo DR finds itself grappling with additional challenges, including an armed insurgency by rebel group M23 in the eastern region of the country.
Expressing their desire to stand in solidarity with those affected by the violence, the Leopards team decided to raise awareness of the plight of the Congolese people by refraining from singing their anthem before the match.
Players placed their right hands over their mouths while holding two fingers of their left hands to their temples. This gesture symbolizes the ongoing loss of life in the country and the silence surrounding the violence.
The Congo DR players also wore black armbands as a tribute to those who have lost their lives in the conflict.
DR Congo’s coach, Sebastien Desabre, highlighted the significance of the players’ gesture, emphasizing the team’s desire to stand in solidarity with their compatriots. Despite the disappointment of the defeat, Desabre emphasized the importance of national pride and unity, recognizing the team’s role as ambassadors for their nation.
“This was a message to victims in the eastern region of the Congo. We need to highlight it and our players are disappointed about this,
“For all the Congolese we would have wished to smile at them tonight but we did our best. A national team is a driver for the nation’s pride. Tonight it was our duty to share this moment with them.” Desabre said.