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AFCON hosts Ivory Coast edge DRC to secure final spot with Nigeria

Sebastien Haller’s decisive goal in the 65th minute secured Ivory Coast’s place in the Africa Cup of Nations final against long-standing rival Nigeria.

The thrilling 1-0 win, celebrated fervently in the packed Alassane Ouattara Stadium, saw Haller’s fine strike find the back of the net under the crossbar.

Haller, making his first start of the tournament following a full recovery from an ankle injury, delighted Ivorian fans who believe their team is divinely guided toward a third Africa Cup title.

Despite missing four players suspended from the semifinals due to the dramatic quarterfinal victory over Mali, Ivory Coast clinched its spot in Sunday’s final.

In the other semifinal, Kelechi Iheanacho sealed Nigeria’s path to the final with a winning penalty, securing a 4-2 shootout victory over South Africa after the match ended 1-1 following extra time.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had made a good start against the home team. Cedric Bakambu thought he’d put the Leopards ahead but his celebrations were cut short and the goal was ruled out as goalkeeper Yahia Fofana was deemed to have had the ball.

Simon Adingra headed a good chance wide for Ivory Coast before Yoane Wissa had an effort saved by Fofana at the other end.

Fan favorite Haller headed the best chance of the first half wide in the 41st and went on to miss other good chances. All was forgiven when he scored the winner.

DRC’s players and coach Sebastien Desabre protested by holding their right hands in front of their mouths and two fingers to their temples during the country’s anthem to spotlight the armed violence taking part in the east of the country. The players also wore black armbands for the game.

Super Eagles prevail

There were no heroics this time in the penalty shootout from South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, who saved four in the quarterfinal win over Cape Verde.

Nigeria counterpart Stanley Nwabali made two penalty saves to deny the Bafana Bafana a place in the final – diving to the bottom left corner to thwart Teboho Mokoena, then Evidence Makgopa’s centrally placed effort.

Nigeria, the three-time champion, will play either host nation Ivory Coast or Congo in Sunday’s final. They were playing later in the other semifinal.

The game in Bouake had barely started when Nigerian star Victor Osimhen doubled over in apparent pain. Osimhen was an injury worry before the game because of abdominal pain, but he was able to resume after a brief pause.

Percy Tau had the first real chance but shot straight at Nwabali, who then had to emerge from goal to grab the ball when Tau burst through minutes later and produced a brilliant save to stop Makgopa’s effort from the top corner.

South Africa dominated possession and created more chances in the first half.

Nigeria got its break midway through the second when Mothobi Mvala conceded a penalty for a foul on Osimhen.

Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong coolly fired the spot kick to the center of the goal in the 67th, though Williams almost stopped it with his legs.

Osimhen thought he’d sealed the win in the 85th, only to have the goal ruled out after a VAR check found Alhassan Yusuf had fouled Tau in the area. South Africa was duly awarded a penalty.

Mokoena made no mistake with the spot kick to equalize in the 90th minute and Khuliso Mudau went on to miss a great chance to seal a South African win in stoppage time.

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