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Haller's strike takes Cote d'Ivoire past DRC into final at Africa Cup of Nations

By Paul Myers - RFI
Europe  Pierre Ren-WormsRFI
FEB 8, 2024 LISTEN
© Pierre René-Worms/RFI

Sebastien Haller marked his first appearance in the starting line-up at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations with the goal on Wednesday night that took Cote d'Ivoire past the Democratic Republic of Congo and into the final of the competition.

The Borussia Dortmund striker scored the winner mid-way through the second-half at the Alassane Outtara Stadium in Abdijan.

His volley from Max Gradel's cross from the right hit the ground, looped over the DRC goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi and into the net.

DRC, who were playing in the semi-finals for the first time since a loss to the Ivorians at the same stage in 2015, made a confident start.

Cédric Bakambu thought he had given his side the lead in the first-half but his celebrations were ended when the goal was ruled out for an infringement on the Ivorian goalkeeper Yahia Fofana.

“It could have been another match,” said DRC head coach Sébastien Desabre of the disallowed goal. “But we can't re-write history. It is how it is.”

Cote d'Ivoire's victory set up a clash on Sunday night at the same venue with Nigeria who came through a stern test in Bouaké against South Africa.

Challenge

“It's like a dream,” said interim Cote d'Ivoire coach Emerse Faé, who had to cope with the suspension of four players.

Progress to the showdown and a possible third continental crown seemed unlikely just over two weeks ago when a 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea left the team on the brink of elimination after the group stages.

But Morocco's win over Zambia furnished them with a place in the knockout rounds as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Senegal's hesitance to build upon an early lead in the last-16 allowedCote d'Ivoire to gain a foothold in the tie and eventual progress via a penalty shoot-out.

Mali were unable to capitalise on playing with an extra man for 75 minutes in the quarter-final before losing in the dying seconds of extra-time.

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