During their confrontation on Sunday in the final of the 2024 African Cup of Nations, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria teams will rely on prominent names in their squads to make the difference and snatch the continental title. If the match hosted by the “Alassane Ouattara” stadium in the suburbs of Abidjan is of great importance and draws the attention of many, what gives it a stronger competitive character is that the two opponents possess players with distinguished professional careers who proved their worth during the tournament, most notably the “Premier Eagles” striker Victor Osimhen and the “Elephants” star. Sebastien Haller.
He faces an elected team Urgent Coast AndNigeria Armed with a host of superstars Sunday in the final 2024 Africa Cup of Nations At Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan, the match is doubly important because of the prominent names included in the squad of both, most notably Victor Osimhen for the Premier Eagles and Sebastien Haller for the Elephants.
The only thing left in the arena is his colleague Ahmed Musa, whom he called “King of Africa,” and the talk here is about Osimhen, the best player in the African continent, who watched his runners-up, Egyptian Mohamed Salah and Moroccan Ashraf Hakimi, leave the continental finals early. The Italian Napoli top scorer is just one step away from achieving his dream.
At the start of the finals, he said, “If I win the Africa Cup of Nations, I will have achieved everything.” He only scored one goal, but he put himself at the service of the team with an assist and two penalty kicks. His absence from training for two days due to illness before the semi-final match, which did not prevent him in the end from playing against South Africa, caused panic among the Nigerian ranks, which showed the extent of his importance to the “Premier Eagles” team.
Nigeria's attacking powerhouse was feared by everyone due to its potential up front and abundance of lethal goalscorers, but ultimately its defense was its strength. The strategy is clear for his Portuguese coach, Jose Peseiro: “We defend as one team.” William Troost-Ekong perfectly manages this strategy, while also being distinguished by his calm nerves, which he translated into two penalty kicks against Ivory Coast in particular in the second round of the group stage (1-0) and against South Africa in the semi-finals, when he gave his country a 1-0 lead before equalizing. “Bafana Bafana” was in the dead end and forced two extra halves, then penalty kicks, which the “Super Eagles” team won 4-2, with a contribution from Troost-Ekong as well.
With the supposed top scorer, Osmehen, being satisfied with one goal in the finals, his teammates had to fill the gap, most notably the Italian Atalanta player, Ademola Lookman, who scored three goals during the eighth and quarter-final rounds against Cameroon (2-0) and Angola (1-0), respectively. After being crowned world champion in the under-20 category in the colors of the English national team, Lookman transferred his loyalty to the country of his parents and became one of the most prominent stars of the “Premier Eagles” thanks to the wonderful performance he has provided with Atalanta since joining them a year and a half ago.
He told the British newspaper “The Guardian”, “In Bergamo (with Atalanta), I really had a defensive role, to help the team in its style of play, but this also allowed me to attack,” similar to what he does with the Eagles.
Sebastien Haller was the most improved of the host team, which until recently was on the brink of collapse. After arriving to the finals injured, he was treated and cared for and only started playing against Senegal in the quarter-finals. He gained upward momentum and provided his country with an additional rock in the building towards trying to win the title for the first time since 2015 and the third in its history. He scored his penalty kick in the victory over Senegal, the defending champion, 5-4 after a 1-1 draw in regular and extra time in a match during which the latter led from the fourth minute until the 86th minute, and he played a valuable role in keeping possession of the ball when he was alone in the front line during the quarter-finals against Mali (2-1 after extra time) as a result of a numerical disadvantage since the 43rd minute of a match that the host team was on track to lose before snatching the equalizer in the fatal seconds of regular time. Finally, he scored the only goal in the semi-final match against the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Sekou Fofana brought enthusiasm and enthusiasm to the “Elephants” team, as was the case in his best days with French Lens. His amazing energy, even if some of his runs on the wing lacked clear vision at times, awakened the “Elephants” team, especially against Mali, as the two goals came after two attempts from him. After years of complicated and intermittent relations with the national team, the professional player in Saudi Arabia captured the hearts of fans. All he has to do is write his name in the records of the African continent's heroes in order to become a legend in his country.
The only one with Serge Aurier from the squad that won the continental title in 2015, Max Gradel was not “tainted” by his country’s disastrous performance at the beginning of its campaign in the finals, as he did not begin his personal career in it until the last seven minutes of the final decisive match of the group stage against Equatorial Guinea (4 -0) When the “elephants” returned from the dead after they were about to say goodbye early.
But the new coach, Emers Faillet, who replaced Frenchman Jean-Louis Gasset after the group stage, used Gradel's experience (104 international matches, 17 goals) in the 16th final. His former coach, Patrice Baumel, told Agence France-Presse, “Gradel is a quiet force. It must be noted that he has been an international player for 12 years. He has always been at the level. He has not suffered any injury. He is reliable, works hard, and always thinks about the team before himself. He is the leader.” “.