In the dramatic Africa Cup of Nations final on Sunday evening, Ivory Coast clinched victory over Nigeria with a spectacular 2-1 win on their home turf.
William Troost-Ekong’s powerful header in the 38th minute had initially put Nigeria ahead. However, Ivory Coast staged a comeback, with Franck Kessie equalizing in the 62nd minute, followed by Sebastian Haller’s winning goal in the 81st minute.
This victory marked Ivory Coast’s third AFCON title in their history, leaving Nigeria, the three-time winners, heartbroken once again.
In the knockout stages, Nigeria secured victories against Cameroon, Angola, and South Africa, while Ivory Coast triumphed over Senegal, Mali, and Congo, paving the way for their clash in the final.
Reactions flooded social media following the Super Eagles’ defeat, with many Nigerians directing blame at Fulham midfielder Alex Iwobi for his performance in the final against Ivory Coast.
Iwobi’s name quickly soared to the top of the trends as social media users across the continent shared their opinions on his contribution to the match.
Criticism against Iwobi intensified during the first half, prompting his substitution for Al Hassan in the 79th minute. Just two minutes after Iwobi left the field, Haller capitalized on a cross from Simon Adingra to secure the winning goal for Ivory Coast.
Many Nigerians expressed disappointment, believing that Iwobi could have performed better before being substituted. The timing of his substitution coinciding with Ivory Coast’s decisive goal fueled further scrutiny and frustration among fans.
Despite the collective disappointment, the Super Eagles’ journey to the final and their overall performance in the tournament garnered praise with Nigeria’s Vice-President Kashim Shettima consoling the players with message that Nigerians are proud of them despite AFCON final loss.