AFCON Final Preview: Ivory Coast vs Nigeria
For the fifth time this century, the finalists of an Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) have emerged from the same group, although on this occasion neither of them actually topped Group A! The stage is set for an exciting final as Nigeria takes on Ivory Coast in a highly anticipated clash. Let’s take a closer look at the two teams and what we can expect from this thrilling encounter.
Nigeria, drawn as the ‘home team’ for this final, will face the challenge of playing in front of a predominantly hostile crowd at Abidjan’s Alassane Ouattara Stadium. However, they have already proven their ability to silence the crowd when they defeated host nation Ivory Coast 1-0 at the same venue last month. This victory showcased Nigeria’s defensive prowess, as they didn’t concede a single goal from open play in their last five consecutive games, highlighting their strengths in their pursuit of a fifth AFCON crown.
To reach the final, Nigeria had to overcome a tough semi-final against South Africa, which they won in a penalty shootout. This victory propelled them into their first AFCON final since their triumph in 2013. The Nigerian team will be determined to avoid a repeat of the previous AFCON held in Ivory Coast, where they finished as runners-up.
On the other hand, Ivory Coast’s journey to the final has been nothing short of remarkable. After a near-disastrous group stage campaign, where they managed just one win and suffered two defeats, the host nation scraped through to the knockout stage. They then went on to eliminate reigning champions Senegal in the last 16 and secured a quarter-final win over Mali. In the semi-finals, Ivory Coast triumphed over DR Congo with a 1-0 victory, earning them a spot in their first AFCON final since their 2015 title.
This achievement makes Ivory Coast the first host nation since Egypt in 2006 to reach the final match of the tournament. In that edition, Egypt emerged as champions after a penalty shootout win over Ivory Coast. Interestingly, the current caretaker manager of Ivory Coast, Emerse Faé, was part of the playing squad in that final. Faé has been careful not to label their success as ‘destiny’, but history suggests that home nations have a significant advantage in AFCON finals, with a record of 10 wins to 3.
Both teams have key players to watch out for in the final. Nigerian winger Ademola Lookman has been instrumental in their knockout stage wins, opening the scoring in two of the three matches. Ivory Coast’s midfielder Franck Kessié has been their go-to goal scorer, finding the back of the net in two fixtures during the 2024 tournament.
A noteworthy statistic is that all but one of the combined matches featuring Ivory Coast and Nigeria at this tournament produced under 2.5 total goals, excluding extra time. This suggests that we can expect a tightly contested final with a focus on solid defensive performances.
As the stage is set for the AFCON final, both Nigeria and Ivory Coast will be giving their all to lift the prestigious trophy. With Nigeria aiming for their fifth AFCON crown and Ivory Coast hoping to secure their third title, football fans can anticipate a thrilling encounter filled with passion and determination.
In conclusion, the AFCON final between Ivory Coast and Nigeria promises to be a captivating showdown. Both teams have overcome challenges to reach this stage, and the match will be a true test of their skills and resilience. Football fans around the world will be eagerly awaiting the outcome of this highly anticipated clash between two African football giants.