Two teams riding late magic and second wind throughout the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations will play for the title in Abidjan as hosts Ivory Coast meet Nigeria in the AFCON final on Sunday.
It’s the Super Eagles who led at halftime, despite appearing second-best through the first half-hour. Captain William Troost-Ekong, who scored from the penalty spot in the semifinal win over South Africa, put Nigeria in front in the 38th minute with a bullet header off a corner.
It’s been quite the road for both sides to reach this point. Ivory Coast looked to have been eliminated in the group stage when they were beaten in consecutive matches to close out the round, but they managed to squeak through to the Round of 16 and have made the most of their new life under interim head coach Emerse Fae.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Elephants then went on to eliminate defending champions Senegal after a penalty shootout and slide past Mali in the quarterfinals on a 122nd-minute winner. It was then up to Sebastien Haller whose 55th-minute goal against DR Congo in the semifinals was enough to book a place in the title match.
Nigeria, meanwhile, had their own nine lives to burn through, securing a nervy 1-0 win against Angola in the quarters before a truly bonkers semifinal match against South Africa saw them one missed opportunity away from elimination. Yet staring an early exit in the face, the Super Eagles managed to hunker down and advance following a penalty shootout as goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali made his latest case for the Golden Glove award.
The Sporting News is following the AFCON final between Nigeria and Ivory Coast live, providing score updates, commentary and highlights as they happen.
AFCON final: Nigeria vs Ivory Coast live score
Kickoff: 8 p.m. local (3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT)
Location: Alassane Ouattara Stadium (Abidjan, Ivory Coast)
Referee: Dahane Beida (Mauritania)
Nigeria (3-4-3, right to left): 23. Nwabili (GK) — 6. Ajayi, 5. Troost-Ekong, 21. Bassey — 3. Sanusi, 8. Onyeka, 17. Iwobi, 2. Aina — 11. Chukwueze, 9. Osimhen, 18. Lookman.
Ivory Coast (4-3-3, right to left): 1. Y. Fofana (GK) — 17. Aurier, 7. Koussounou, 21. N’Dicka, 3. Konan — 8. Kessie, 4. Seri, 6. Fofana — 15. Gradel, 22. Haller, 24. Adingra.
Nigeria vs Ivory Coast live updates, highlights, commentary
Nigeria vs Ivory Coast: Second Half
53rd min: Ivory Coast want the referee to have a look at contact on Max Gradel who goes down at the top of the penalty area. It looks like he had his ankle stamped on, but it wasn’t intentional and happened only as he was already falling to the turf on his own. Play is waved on.
In the aftermath, Stanley Nwabali is booked for his taunts of Max Gradel while the latter was on the ground receiving treatment, and then so is Ivorian captain Serge Aurier. The Nigerian goalkeeper wanted Gradel booked for simulation but was fronted up by Aurier in a shouting match.
50th min: Chance, Ivory Coast! CLEARED OFF THE LINE BY NIGERIA! Max Gradel wins a free-kick just to the right of the penalty area, and while the ball wasn’t cleared for a number of seconds, only a blocked shot came from it before it’s eventually sent away by the Nigerian defence.
As Ivory Coast recycle it back in, a wonderful cross from the left unlocked the Super Eagles, leaving Stanley Nwabali sprawled on the deck and the goal gaping. It fell to Gradel who unleashes a piledriver at the open net, but Calvin Bassey got in the way and rejected the effort right on the doorstep!
— Foot Mercato (@footmercato) February 11, 2024
Kickoff: They’re under way for the second half in Abidjan! Both these teams have had late magic this tournament, so there’s surely more twists and turns to come over the next 45 minutes or more.
Five of the last six AFCON host nations who reached the final on home soil went on to win. The only that didn’t? Nigeria in 2000. Will the Elephants become the second modern host to fall just 90 minutes short, or will they have another late comeback in them to turn this around?
HALFTIME: Nigeria 1-0 Ivory Coast
The Elephants were well in the ascendancy through the first 30 minutes as they were spurred on by the home crowd in Abidjan, but Nigeria picked out the opener against the run of play, turning the match completely on its head.
Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong, who scored from the penalty spot in the semifinal win over South Africa, came up big again as he headed the Super Eagles in front on 38 minutes, and they have been the better side since that moment. Ivory Coast have some soul-searching to do in the dressing room, lucky to even be sporting 11 players after Franck Kessie got away with throwing an elbow right before the break.
Nigeria vs Ivory Coast: First Half
45+4 min: Oh boy, Franck Kessie could be in real trouble here, as he pummels Zaidu Sanusi with his elbow as the Nigerian was racing past the backpedaling Ivorian midfielder. Sanusi is in a heap on the pitch, and replay suggested that contact had real malice and appeared intentional.
Somehow, they play on. The hosts get away with one, as they very well could have been a man down if VAR had taken action. Incredibly, Kessie gets away without even a booking. Extremely lucky.
44th min: Victor Osimhen is whistled for his third foul of the match, and he’s caught letting out a vociferous chuckle as he finds the repeated decisions against him somewhat humorous.
Four minutes of stoppage time are shown, as Osimhen receives treatment for a hamstring niggle, but is able to come back on.
38th min: GOAL! NIGERIA! The Super Eagles have been second best so far, but their captain William Troost-Ekong puts them in front with their first foray forward!
The initial corner delivery to the near post is not cleared well and the ball loops up into the air where Troost-Ekong leaps high into the air above Ivorian captain Serge Aurier, sending a bullet into the back of the net! It’s Nigeria’s second shot of the match, and first on target, but that’s all they need to open the scoring!
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“It’s captain fantastic to silence the arena!” ©️🤫
Troost-Ekong’s bullet header opens the scoring in the AFCON final! 🇳🇬 pic.twitter.com/TGIYFVZYbj
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) February 11, 2024
37th min: Chance, Nigeria! It’s the first shot from the Super Eagles as a mess in midfield sees Zaidu Sanusi get in open space down the left, but Odilon Kossounou comes in strong to make the block and concede a corner. There appeared to be an opening to shoot, but it’s closed down at the last minute.
34th min: Chance, Ivory Coast! WHAT A SAVE BY STANLEY NWABALI! A wonderful later ball by Franck Kessie springs Simon Adingra down the left edge of the six-yard box, and he finds space to shoot from a tight angle. His effort is pinpoint, seeking the inside of the far post, but the Nigerian goalkeeper is up to the task, diving to his left to stop the shot! Another brilliant moment from Nwabali who is having a sensational AFCON tournament!
31st min: There’s even more needle now in this match as Stanley Nwabali comes out to collect a ball and clips Simon Adingra slightly with his knee as he flies by. That brings us to a cooling break, and that phrase has a few meanings as it gives the two squads a chance to chill out with tempers on both sides rising.
26th min: There’s a tussle on the field! An aerial duel between Evan N’Dicka and Victor Osimhen sparks a kerfuffle, as the Roma defender clips Osimhen in the head with his wayward arm. It’s far from any dangerous contact, but Osimhen did not appreciate the extra physicality, and N’Dicka did not back down from his opponent’s advances.
Then moments later Nigeria head coach Jose Peseiro gets a yellow card for absolutely berating the fourth official following another foul called on Osimhen. The Super Eagles boss did not appreciate the whistle blown for his striker’s involvement in an aerial challenge overtop Franck Kessie.
20th min: Chance, Ivory Coast! Another weird mistake at the back for Nigeria as Zaidu Sanusi concedes a corner out of nothing, attempting to head the ball back to his goalkeeper but Stanley Nwabali was nowhere close.
The set-piece delivery falls to Evan N’Dicka at the far post and he goes for the absolutely stunning bicycle kick finish from point-blank range, but his effort hits the side netting. That would have been spectacular and he made good contact, but puts it just inches wide!
11th min: Yikes, Ola Aina looks to clear another Ivorian cross from the right, and blasts it over his own crossbar. That was nervously close to an own-goal. The ensuing corner results in a Seko Fofana shot that’s right into the arms of Stanley Nwabali.
Frank Onyeka then pummels Fofana in midfield, and himself is lucky not to be booked for that thumping midair challenge. The hosts have been by far the better side through the opening stage of this match.
9th min: Franck Kessie is off to the races down the right, and Calvin Bassey shoves him in the back to stop the breakaway, a cynical foul that maybe was deserving of a booking but does not draw an early yellow. Kessie is down needing treatment, as he hit the deck quite hard.
The free-kick is not taken well and easily cleared, but as Ademola Lookman handles the ball while trying to collect the clearance, so it gives the hosts another dead ball opportunity. That one’s also denied by Nigeria’s stout defensive line.
7th min: Chance, Ivory Coast! It’s the first real chance of the match as Ivory Coast misfire on a corner but recycle possession and send a ball to the back post from Max Gradel. The ball is vicious, but evades two attackers, one at the near post and one at the far post, as it goes just out of Sebastien Haller’s reach and out of play. That’s very close!
6th min: It’s been an extremely physical opening few minutes, as Victor Osimhen gets a talking to from the Mauritanian referee after an aggressive foul from behind. There’s been four fouls already in the opening five-plus minutes. You can tell both sets of players have plenty of adrenaline coursing through their veins!
Kickoff: They’re under way at Alassane Ouattara Stadium! An African champion will be crowned at the conclusion of this match, with so much glory on the line in this venue.
— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) February 11, 2024
Nigeria vs Ivory Coast: Pre-match commentary, analysis, stats, and more
15 mins to kickoff: With the hosts of AFCON 2023 in the final, it will be absolutely rocking in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan as this match draws nearer! Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara, for whom today’s venue is named, is on hand for the match.
President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, His Excellency Alassane Ouattara welcomed by CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe and FIFA President Gianni Infantino at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium ahead of AFCON Final pic.twitter.com/OI9fvu8SbM
— CAF Media (@CAF_Media) February 11, 2024
30 mins to kickoff: One player critical to Ivory Coast’s turnaround has been former Fulham and current Hull City midfielder Jean-Michael Seri, who did not play a single minute in the group stage but has started all three knockout matches under interim head coach Emerse Fae.
Seri has spent his career in and out of the Ivory Coast picture, serving as a main player through 2018 and 2021, but falling out of the mix as he struggled at Fulham and signed for Championship side Hull City. Yet now that he’s seeing regular football for the Tigers as they fight for a promotion playoff spot, he’s been brought back into the fold.
He won the Man of the Match award for the team’s penalty shootout win over Senegal, completing 63 of 66 passes while producing 11 defensive actions and winning 10 of his 16 duels.
🇨🇮 Jean Seri 🇨🇮
— CAF (@CAF_Online) January 29, 2024
45 mins to kickoff: One of the more heartwarming stories from this AFCON tournament has been Sebastien Haller’s continued comeback from testicular cancer. 18 months ago he was subjected to two surgeries and multiple rounds of chemotherapy after the discovery of a tumor.
“I understood what it was to be really afraid,” Haller’s wife said in a documentary for French broadcaster Canal+ called Fight. “I was scared and had the fear of my life.” Now, he leads his nation in an AFCON final, he is trying to “enjoy every moment” he has on the pitch.
Sébastien Haller beat testicular cancer and returned to competitive football in January last year.
A little over a year later, he scored a memorable goal that sent Côte d’Ivoire 🇨🇮 to the AFCON 2023 final. pic.twitter.com/QRtvgmOZ4X
— Usher Komugisha (@UsherKomugisha) February 11, 2024
1 hour to kickoff: The Ivory Coast lineup is in as well. Like Nigeria, there are two changes for the Elephants, both coming along the back line.
Full-back and captain Serge Aurier enters in place of Wilfried Singo on the right, while Bayer Leverkusen upstart Odilon Kossounou enters at centre-back for Willy Boly. It’s a big call from interim boss Emerse Fae, who could risk upsetting the team’s form by making such alterations to the lineup in a final.
1 hour 15 mins to kick: Super Eagles goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali has put himself in the driver’s seat for the Golden Glove award at AFCON 2023. He has conceded just two goals all tournament, just one from open play, and led the way as Nigeria advanced through the semifinals on a penalty shootout making a vital save right before Kelechi Iheanacho’s winning effort.
Currently playing for South African club Chippa United, the 27-year-old may have put himself firmly in the shop window for a big move this summer if any European clubs took notice over the past few weeks.
Nigeria GK Stanley Nwabali has made 14 saves in #AFCON2023, with 4 clean sheets and 2 penalty saves to advance to the final.
He had 3 caps prior to the start of the tournament and currently plays club ball for Chippa United in…
South Africa, the side he just eliminated. 😅 pic.twitter.com/4xabvb4Xrd
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) February 7, 2024
1 hour 30 mins to kick: Nigeria have continued their habit of releasing their starting lineup earlier than required. There are two changes to the starting XI from head coach Jose Peseiro, as he brings Zaidu Sanusi back from injury into midfield, while Samuel Chukwueze replaces Moses Simon on the wing.
1 hour 45 mins to kick: Ivory Coast, hosts of this year’s AFCON tournament, were dead in the water. An embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea in their final group stage match all but sealed their fate, unlikely to advance as a third-place finisher with just three points and a poor goal differential.
It led to the dismissal of head coach Jean-Louis Gasset, with the axe dropping before their exit was even officially confirmed.
Then, the unthinkable happened. Somehow, the hosts found themselves through to the knockout stage as the final third-place qualifier. Now, just 20 days after all 60,000 fans at Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium stood in stunned silence, the home crowd at that very same venue will again be at full voice as their beloved Elephants play for the title. Never, ever, give the hosts new life.
Le Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara d’Ebimpé pic.twitter.com/ROrtVBAQZ2
— Mohamed CHERIF (@cherifmohamed_) February 8, 2024
2 hours to kickoff: As the reigning African Player of the Year, the continent’s highest individual honour, Victor Osimhen was expected to lead Nigeria from the front as they pushed for AFCON glory. If you told a Super Eagles fan before the competition that Nigeria would reach the final, you’d expect Osimhen to be near the front of the Golden Boot race.
Instead, he has just one single goal, coming in their very first group-stage match of the tournament. Yet he’s still been front and center of all Nigeria’s attacking moves, collecting chances for himself and opening up spaces for teammates as well. Osimhen has seen a goal disallowed by VAR in each of the past two games and has served up three assists as the likes of Ademola Lookman and Alex Iwobi profit from the attention on their talisman striker.
— #JoyAFCON (@JoySportsGH) February 10, 2024
Nigeria vs Ivory Coast lineups, team news
There was a scare for Nigeria when Victor Osimhen was stretchered off late against Angola in the quarterfinal victory, but he was cleared for action in the semifinals and will be available to take the field here as well. Alongside him, Samuel Chukwueze takes over on the wing for Moses Simon in the only tactical change for the final.
The Super Eagles are missing the attacking presence of Victor Boniface, who was injured in pre-tournament training and has missed not only the entire AFCON competition, but will also be out for the next few weeks after returning to Bayer Leverkusen for his recovery.
Also absent due to injury is midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, who is missing after suffering a long-term muscle injury, while Umar Sadiq of Real Sociedad is not with the squad due to a knee problem. Left wing-back Zaidu Sanusi was missing from the semifinal starting lineup, and while he was a doubt for the final according to head coach Jose Peseiro, he has returned to full availability.
Nigeria starting lineup (3-4-3): Nwabili (GK) — Ajayi, Troost-Ekong, Bassey — Sanusi, Onyeka, Iwobi, Aina — Chukwueze, Osimhen, Lookman.
Nigeria subs (12): Uzoho (GK), Omeruo, Awaziem, Osayi-Samuel, Onyedika, Aribo, Onuachu, Yusuf, Simon, Musa, Iheahacho, Moffi.
There are no new injuries to the Ivory Coast squad to worry about as they gear up for the AFCON final. They are without oft-injured defender Eric Bailly, and Wilfried Zaha was controversially left off the roster for the tournament.
Star striker Sebastien Haller missed the group stage with an ankle injury, but has returned for the knockout matches, playing his first full 90 minutes of the competition in the semifinals when his second-half goal provided Ivory Coast their place in the title game.
There are two changes along the Ivory Coast back line, with Odilon Kossounou and captain Serge Aurier entering the XI, replacing Wilfried Singo and Willy Boly.
Ivory Coast starting lineup (4-3-3): Y. Fofana (GK) — Aurier, Kossounou, N’Dicka, Konan — Kessie, Seri, Fofana — Gradel, Haller, Adingra.
Ivory Coast subs (12): W. Sangare (GK), Singo, Diomande, Diallo, Lazare, I. Sangare, Diakite, Bamba, Boga, Pepe, Krasso, Kouame.
How to watch Nigeria vs Ivory Coast
|Sun, Feb. 11
|3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT
|beIN Sports, beIN Sports en Espanol
|Fubo USA, beIN Sports Connect, Fanatiz
|Sun, Feb. 11
|8 p.m. GMT
|BBC3, Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Football, Sky Sports Premier League
|BBC web/iPlayer, Sky GO Extra
|Mon, Feb. 12
|5 a.m. AEDT
|beIN Sports 2
|beIN Sports Connect
|Sun, Feb. 11
|3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT
|beIN Sports, beIN Sports en Espanol
|Fubo Canada, beIN Sports Connect
|Mon, Feb. 12
|12:30 a.m. IST
The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final between Nigeria and Ivory Coast will be broadcast on beIN Sports in the United States and Canada, with a Spanish-language broadcast available on beIN Sports en Espanol.
BeIN Sports is also the rights-holder in Australia, with the match broadcast on beIN Sports 2. In the UK, the match will be broadcast by both BBC and Sky Sports across multiple platforms, as well as the dedicated streaming services for both providers.