Brighton and Hove Albion winger Simon Adingra said that Ivory Coast’s Africa Cup of Nations triumph was “one of the most beautiful moments of my life”.
He was speaking after the tournament hosts came from behind to beat Nigeria 2-1 in the final last night (Sunday 11 February) to become African champions for a third time.
Adingra, who set up both goals and was named player of the match, said: “We did it together. We’re Africa champions and it’s incredible.
“I’ve just experienced one of the most beautiful moments of my life and that’s down to the effort of everyone in the team.”
The hosts went behind when Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong headed in a 38th-minute opener against the run of play.
But second-half goals from Franck Kessie and the former West Ham striker Sebastien Haller sealed what at one stage appeared an improbable victory.
Haller had testicular cancer diagnosed in July 2022 and returned to action at German Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund just over a year ago.
Ivory Coast had a rollercoaster tournament after winning their opening group match but qualifying for the knockout stages despite a 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea.
Head coach Jean-Louis Gasset was sacked – and Emerse Fae was appointed caretaker boss.
After last night’s final, he said: “When I think about all we went through, the hard times when we almost went out and the matches where we came back in last minutes, we have created some miracles.
“We were close to humiliation but when we had a second chance, we were determined not to waste it.”
Gasset was not the only manager to lose his job, with former Seagulls boss Chris Hughton sacked after Ghana crashed out in the group stage.
And former Albion star Yves Bissouma had a tough tournament, having reportedly been suffering from malaria throughout.
He started just two games out of five and came on as an extra time sub for Mali in their quarter-final defeat to Ivory Coast – the country of his birth.
Adingra was a sub in the same game. He came on in the 86th minute and scored the vital leveller that sent the game into extra time when the hosts triumphed.
Today was a public holiday in Ivory Coast. Albion fans will be looking for more cause for celebration when Adingra returns to Premier League action.