Haller's goal eliminates DR Congo, propelling Ivory Coast into the AFCON 2024 final.

Haller’s goal eliminates DR Congo, propelling Ivory Coast into the AFCON 2024 final.

Borussia Dortmund striker Haller, making his tournament debut after an injury, connected with a Max-Alain Gradel cross in the 65th minute at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium, his shot looping over the goalie and into the net.
That was enough to settle a tight but open semi-final match, and the Ivorians will now meet Nigeria at the same stadium on Sunday to determine who will win the trophy.

The two-time winners are the first host country to reach the Cup of Nations final since Egypt in 2006, and the turnaround is really astonishing given that the squad was on the verge of elimination in the group stage.

In contrast, it was a crushing setback for DR Congo, who had hoped to make their first participation in an AFCON final since winning the title as Zaire in 1974.
On the eve of this game, Ivory Coast’s performance in the tournament was termed as “miraculous” by their own interim coach, Emerse Fae, who replaced the ousted Jean-Louis Gasset after disastrous losses in the group stage.
After being humiliated and on the brink of elimination by Equatorial Guinea on January 22, this was their first encounter at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium on Abidjan’s dusty outskirts since that setback.
The Elephants advanced to the round of 16 as the last of the four best third-placed teams, then defeated defending champions Senegal on penalties.
They then defeated Mali in the quarter-finals, despite playing the most of the match with just ten men, with the victory coming in extra time.
Oumar Diakite, who won the match against Mali, was sent off while celebrating his goal and was suspended here, along with captain Serge Aurier, Odilon Kossounou, and Christian Kouame.
Among those joining were Brighton winger Simon Adingra, who scored the equalizer against Mali, and Haller, the talismanic attacker who was finally healthy.
DR Congo was hoping to revenge their 3-1 loss to the Ivorians in their last participation in the AFCON semi-finals in 2015.
Congo protest.
Their players have been motivated throughout the tournament by a desire to raise awareness to the situation of millions of Congolese afflicted by continuous conflict in the country’s east.
The Congo squad used the national song to protest, with one hand covering their lips and the other imitating a pistol aiming at their heads.
Despite the hostile home crowd, the Leopards began strongly and scored in the ninth minute.
Cedric Bakambu struck the ball out of goalkeeper Yahia Fofana’s grip and into the corner, but the Libyan referee disallowed the goal due to a foul.
The Ivorians had the most opportunities in the first half, and their danger mounted as the halftime whistle neared.
Haller rose unmarked in the box, only to miss Wilfried Singo’s tempting cross in the 40th minute. Moments later, Franck Kessie’s shot hit the post.
Kessie threatened again just before the hour mark with a thunderous shot that caused goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi to react, but the breakthrough came shortly after.
Max-Alain Gradel sent a cross into the box from the right, and Haller swung his leg with hope rather than expectation. The connection was poor, but the ball dropped down to the ground before looping over the hapless Mpasi’s head and into the goal.
Frenzied celebrations erupted, as Fae leaped about in his technical area.
The hosts then tried for the kill, with Haller heading into the top of the net from an Adingra corner and shooting a lob wide when faced with just Mpasi to beat.
One goal was enough, and the final whistle was met with a tremendous shout.

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