Sebastien Haller scored in the 81st minute as Ivory Coast defeated Nigeria 2-1 in the AFCON 2023 final on Sunday, completing a remarkable comeback from testicular cancer.
Sebastien Haller: From Cancer Victory To AFCON Triumph
The Borussia Dortmund striker, who was diagnosed with the disease in July 2022 and underwent two surgeries and four rounds of chemotherapy, netted the decisive goal to break the 1-1 deadlock at the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpé in Abidjan.
Haller, who missed the tournament’s first three games due to an ankle injury, latched onto a cross from Simon Adingra and slyly tipped the ball into the net to spark wild celebrations among the home fans.
It was his second goal of the competition, after scoring the solitary goal against DR Congo in the semi-finals, and his 10th in 26 appearances for the Elephants.
Haller’s goal also secured Ivory Coast’s third AFCON title after winning in 1992 and 2015. The 29-year-old expressed his joy after lifting the AFCON trophy:
“We dreamed of this moment so many times. We hoped to get to this point, and once again, the match wasn’t an easy one. The joyous scenes we see now, what’s happening in the country, they deserve it too. I really hope it does a lot of people good.
Haller’s story of resilience and courage has inspired many people around the world, especially those who are facing similar challenges.
The Most Unlikely Winners
The hosts, coached by caretaker Emerse Fae after former France international Jean-Louis Gasset was fired in the group stage, overcame a slow start to the tournament, where they beat Guinea-Bissau and lost to Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.
They knocked out defending champions Senegal on penalties in the last 16 before beating Mali and DR Congo in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively.