World: Africa Cup of Nations
1 - 0
(0 - 0)
Côte d'Ivoire
Congo DR
S. Haller (65)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Cote d'Ivoire in ecstasy after Haller shoots hosts into Final: "It's like a dream."

The dream continues for 2023 Africa Cup of Nations hosts Cote d'Ivoire after Borussia Dortmund striker Sebastien Haller shot his country into the tournament Final last night. 

Ivorian interim trainer Emerse Faé - thrust into the limelight when the country sacked Jean-Louis Gasset three matches in - commented on what it felt like to be caught in his particular whirlwind last night. 
Current Africa Cup of Nations hosts Cote d'Ivoire simply cannot stop producing sensational stories. Les Elephants stood on the brink of elimination following their 0-4 defeat to Equatorial Guinea in the final group stage match. Against all of the odds, the stars aligned for the Ivorians as group stage play concluded. The country advanced to the knockouts as the final third-placed-side permitted to pass in the 24-team tournament.

It appeared as if nothing could top the drama of an improbable late comeback and shootout win over defending champions Senegal in the Round-of-16. More insanity nevertheless came in the quarters. A shorthanded Ivorian side scored two goals with only ten men on the pitch to push out Mali. Few Cote d'Ivoire supporters would have complained about a loss in the semis. It seemed as if the team had pushed their luck far enough.

Ivorian interim trainer Emerse Faé had to contend with five suspensions in preparation for a showdown with an exceptionally strong Congo DR side in the semis. Bundesliga professional Odilon Kossounou was among the quintet Faé had to plan without. Fewer options in attack meant that Faé had to turn to the other German club professional representing his country, Sebastien Haller of Borussia Dortmund.

Haller scored the lone goal in last night's 1-0 victory. The BVB attacker polished off a Max Gradel service in the 65th to ultimately send the Ivorians into the Final. Haller registered a furious five shots on target over the course of a full 90-minute shift. German football's Congolese representative Silas of VfB Stuttgart could only respond with a meek 12 minutes off the bench.

Haller’s increased playing time, not to mention Kossonou's re-instated starting role under Faé, have proven to be huge factors in the country's remarkable and miraculous turnaround. Haller could have had a hat-trick with as many chances as he generated. Faé will surely be happy to welcome Kossounou back for the Final.

"It's like a dream for us," Faé - as quoted by Britain's Guardian newspaper - remarked at his post match presser last night, "After we lost to Equatorial Guinea, none of us could imagine making the Final."

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