Ivory Coast defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 in Wednesday’s semi-final at the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium, thanks to a goal from Sebastien Haller that advanced the hosts into the Africa Cup of Nations final.
The Ivorians, who were on the verge of elimination in the group stage, have made an incredible comeback, and Haller’s goal in the 65th minute has secured their place in Sunday’s final against Nigeria.
In Wednesday’s other semi-final in Bouake, Nigeria defeated South Africa on penalties.
After suffering an ankle injury, Haller was making his first start of the season. His goal was fortunate to come from a mishit attempt that ricocheted off Congolese custodian Lionel Mpasi and into the net.
In the 40th minute, Wilfried Singo’s precise cross was met with a close-range header from Haller, which suggested the Ivorian forward was rusty.
Three minutes after his goal, he had another opportunity after a bad back pass sent him free. His attempt to volley over the custodian was well-thought out, but it was also off target.
In the 42nd minute, Franck Kessie beat the Congolese keeper with a powerful left-footed drive that touched the underside of the post and bounced out from goal, striking the woodwork.
All of it was evidence of the Ivorian supremacy as they carried on with their comeback, having survived the first round as the last of the top three group finishers.
A 4-0 setback to tiny Equatorial Guinea and the legendary French coach Jean Louis Gasset’s subsequent dismissal are now buried behind the joy of a sell-out home crowd.
Theo Bongonda, a substitute, had a brilliant dribbling run early in the second half that ended with the finest chance for DR Congo, but his effort struck the side netting.
The Ivorians are the first hosts to make the final in the past nine tournaments since Egypt in 2006, while the Congolese were trying to make it to their first final in fifty years.
South Africa and DR Congo will square off in the third-place playoff on Saturday in Abidjan.