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Haller the Hero: Ivory Coast Edge Out DR Congo to Reach AFCON Final

Haller the Hero: Ivory Coast Edge Out DR Congo to Reach AFCON Final
Sebastien Haller
emerged as the unlikely hero for Ivory Coast, as the hosts edged past a determined DR Congo side 1-0 to book their place in the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations final. In a tense and tightly contested semi-final encounter, it was Haller's unorthodox 65th-minute volley that proved the difference, sending the Ivorian crowd into raptures and setting up a mouthwatering final against Nigeria.

The Elephants, buoyed by the home support and desperate to erase the disappointment of their 2022 final defeat, started brightly. Wilfried Zaha and Nicolas Pepe were lively down the flanks, but the Congolese defense, marshaled by the impressive Tisserand, stood firm. DR Congo, themselves seeking their first AFCON title since 1974, grew into the game and threatened on the counter-attack, with Dieumerci Mbokani causing problems for the Ivorian backline.

The deadlock was finally broken just past the hour mark. A hopeful punt forward from goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare found Haller on the edge of the box. The Borussia Dortmund striker, known more for his strength and aerial prowess, surprised everyone with an acrobatic volley that looped over the despairing Mothumbi and into the net. The goal sparked wild celebrations in the stands, and Ivory Coast held on resolutely to secure their place in the final.

DR Congo pushed for an equalizer in the closing stages, but the Ivorian defense, inspired by the leadership of Serge Aurier, remained resolute. The final whistle blew to a chorus of cheers from the Ivorian fans, as their team reached their third AFCON final in the last four tournaments.

Haller, who has battled back from testicular cancer in recent years, was understandably emotional after the match. "This means everything to me," he said. "To score the winning goal in a semi-final, in front of my home crowd, is a dream come true. We knew it would be tough, but we showed heart and determination, and now we have a chance to make history."

The victory sets up a tantalizing final against Nigeria on February 11th. Both teams will be aiming for their third AFCON title, and the clash promises to be a fiercely contested affair. Ivory Coast will be hoping to ride the wave of home support and Haller's heroics to finally get their hands on the trophy, while Nigeria will be determined to spoil the party and claim their own piece of continental glory.
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