Sebastien #Haller To Play In #AFCON Final Against The Super #Eagles After Defeating #Cancer

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#Haller To Play In #AFCON Final Against The Super #Eagles
Sebastien #Haller To Play In #AFCON Final Against The Super #Eagles After Defeating #Cancer

Sebastien #Haller To Play In #AFCON Final Against The Super #Eagles After Defeating #Cancer—-Sebastien Haller’s scores the only in the 65th-minute against DR Congo to set up Ivory Coast against Nigeria in the AFCON final at Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara on Sunday night.

The hosts have the chance to win the tournament on home soil – and become the first team to do so since Egypt in 2006 – just over two weeks after they sacked manager Jean-Louis Grasset after an unimpressive group stage.

Les Elephants had assumed that after finishing third in their group, and falling to lacklustre defeats against Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, they were destined to crash out of the competition.

Instead, the team were spared and sent through as the strongest third-placed side.

Since managed by interim head coach Emerse Fae, the side have claimed victory against Senegal on penalties in the round of 16, and a 2-1 win against Mali in the quarter-finals.

Haller was making his first start in the tournament after recovering from an ankle injury, and had previously missed a header at close range in the goalless first-half.

But fortune was on his side when Max Gradel lofted a cross from the dead-ball line to the right of goal into the centre of the box – only for Haller to catch the ball with a freakish touch almost off his right ankle.

The shot looped well out of Lionel M’Pasi’s grasp, landing behind the Congolese goalkeeper in the back of the net.

On the touchline, Fae celebrated as if he knew the goal was the winner – and such was Ivorian dominance that Sebastien Desabre’s side could offer no response.

‘We are happy, we’re really moved. It’s like a dream, when you go back two weeks to the defeat here against Equatorial Guinea,’ said Fae after the final whistle.

‘It was hard then to imagine that we might qualify for the final of our own AFCON.’

Haller’s match-winning strike comes just 599 days after he first received his diagnosis of testicular cancer weeks after joining Borussia Dortumund from Ajax in the summer of 2022.

The 29-year-old underwent chemotheraphy and two operations at the end of that year, before returning to action at the Bundesliga club in January 2023.

A month later, Haller scored his first goal back on World Cancer Day as Dortmund beat Freiburg 5-1.

The player previously described chemotherapy as being ‘like a game’ due to the importance of keeping a positive mindset.

‘I am someone who’s trying to be positive all the time,’ Haller said in 2023. ‘I have this mindset that I want to be able to get through things. I was putting the bad thoughts away. “Hospital? Yeah, let’s go.”

‘You have the chemo and every day you have this liquid in your body and you’re just focused – like a game.

‘You have five days that are s***. But, OK, you are not alone. Seventy-two hours (of feeling unwell), and then it will be OK for two weeks.

‘You are thinking about your family and seeing your family, resting and enjoying it. I kept those ideas in my mind.’

Haller’s strike comes in his second-ever AFCON tournament after switching his allegiance to Ivory Coast from France in 2020.

Midfielder Franck Kessie – who was named man of the match – stressed that belief was critical to Ivory Coast’s surprise success on home soil.

‘As long as you still have a five or 10 percent chance you need to keep believing, because that is what makes football beautiful,’ Kessie told reporters. ‘After the Morocco result we knew we had qualified and that changed everything.

‘It gave us the strength we needed, it boosted us. We knew we couldn’t do worse than in the first round.

‘We need to keep going like this because you can’t go all the way to the final only to then give up.’

 

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