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Haller scores late as Ivory Coast beats Nigeria to win AFCON

FRANCK FIFE / AFP / Getty

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ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Sébastien Haller scored late for Ivory Coast to come from behind and win the Africa Cup of Nations with a 2-1 victory over rival Nigeria in the final on Sunday.

Haller fired in from close range in the 81st minute to complete the turnaround after Franck Kessié drew the host nation level in the 62nd.

It’s Ivory Coast’s third title after wins in 1992 and 2015, both won on penalties.

Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong had scored in the 38th against the run of play with a header to a corner. The Super Eagles had been outplayed in the first half and really only threatened again in a desperate attempt to equalize after Haller’s goal.

Troost-Ekong also scored when the teams last met in the group stage for Nigeria’s 1-0 win.

That had been just the start of the Elephants’ troubles as Ivory Coast was almost eliminated in its next match. It fired its coach but recorded unlikely comeback wins over defending champion Senegal and Mali in the knockout stage, before Haller fired the team into the final with the winning goal against Congo in the semifinals.

Nigeria conceded as many goals in the final as it had in all its previous games in the tournament. Coach José Peseiro had banked on a mean defense to earn what would have been the Super Eagles’ fourth title.

In the final, Ivory Coast’s pressure finally paid off when Kessié's header to Adingra’s corner set off a tumult of joy in the 60,000-capacity Alassane Ouattara Stadium. Kessié ran to the corner and raised his hand to his forehead in salute as the sea of orange-clad fans rippled in delight.

Haller’s winner set off celebrations that will last long through the night in Abidjan and elsewhere.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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