There’s nothing quite like AFCON! This year’s edition has been another festival, celebrating all that’s good about African football.
The home nation Ivory Coast somehow find themselves in the final after a whirlwind tournament where they refused to go away. From sacking their coach to coming within one step of the trophy, emotions ran high in the Alassane Ouattara Stadium as they eased past D.R. Congo.
On the other side, Nigeria went through on penalties, knocking out South Africa in another thriller.
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Haller the Hero
In July 2022, Sebastien Haller withdrew from Borussia Dotmund’s pre-season training camp in Switzerland to begin his treatment for testicular cancer. Two surgeries, four cycles of chemotherapy, and one semi-final winner later; he propelled the Elephants into the AFCON final on home soil.
It’s an inspirational story, and for Haller, a dream. The remarkable journey embodies the wider Ivorian spirit of this tournament. They’ve refused to give up.
His looping winner sent the fans into pandemonium, a far cry from the shambolic group stages they endured. They scraped through to the knockouts following a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Equatorial Guinea, leaving most under the impression it was only a matter of time before someone put the hosts out of their misery.
Managerless and seemingly rudder-less on and off the pitch, winning just two games, how did they even negotiate a way to the final? The magic of AFCON. Without a host nation triumph since Egypt in 2006, Ivorian fans will be hoping for one more Sebastien Haller miracle.
Super Eagles Soar
Unfortunately for the narrative, Nigeria’s route to the final was a little more conventional. It seems like every other game has gone to penalties at this tournament, and Nigeria managed to successfully weave their way through a shootout against South Africa when the pressure was on.
However, they nearly bailed out of the competition when South Africa’s Khuliso Mudau narrowly missed a glorious opportunity five minutes into stoppage time. South Africa managed to hold on in extra time but ultimately suffered a shootout defeat when Nigerian keeper Stanley Nwabili saved two spot-kicks, cementing his hero status.
Nigeria had lost five of their previous six AFCON semi-finals and had to overcome a very spirited South African side to ensure that record did not worsen. The Super Eagles came into this tournament as one of the favourites, with star quality all over the pitch, not least in star striker Victor Osimhen.
They just haven’t quite seemed in control to this point. They have players that should, in a secure system, put most sides to the sword. However, they have seemed lacklustre in their efforts at times. They cannot afford to go into the final at anything less than 100% or they will leave heart-broken.
AFCON Final Betting Odds
Nigeria to win @ 2.61
Ivory Coast to win @ 2.85
Draw @ 2.58
AFCON Final Betting Tips
Sebastien Haller to score first @ 6.50
Under 1.5 goals @ 2.37
*Odds subject to change.
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