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All eyes will be on the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan on Sunday as Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire square off in the highly-anticipated final of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Côte d’Ivoire punched their ticket to the final in front of a boisterous home crowd, claiming a 1-0 victory over Democratic Republic of Congo behind Sebastien Haller’s winning goal. The striker’s performance marked a comeback for the Elephants, who were doubted despite hosting the tournament.

Nigeria joined them after prevailing 4-2 in a penalty shootout against South Africa in their semifinal. With three AFCON titles since 2013, the Super Eagles now have their sights set on a fourth, though Côte d’Ivoire stands in their way of continental glory.

When these powerhouses last met in the group stage, Nigeria secured a narrow 1-0 win. However, Côte d’Ivoire will be fighting for redemption on home soil in Sunday’s final.

Securing a third AFCON championship poses the biggest test yet for Nigeria and manager José Péseiro, while Côte d’Ivoire’s Emerse Fae will look to outfox his opponent.

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Opening Ceremony during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations Final match between Cote dIvoire and Guinea Bissau at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan, Cote dIvoire ©Lenoir Records/BackpagePix

On the pitch, Africa’s brightest stars take center stage under Abidjan’s night lights. Côte d’Ivoire can unleash Nicolas Pépé and Haller, as Nigeria counter with Victor Osimhen and commanding center-back William Troost-Ekong.

Regardless of the result, African football emerges as the clear victor from this showdown of heavyweights.

In addition to the gripping spectacle, this year’s AFCON has featured several noteworthy events. Bouchra Karboubi, an international referee from North Africa, has captured the attention of football fans as the first North African woman to officiate in the tournament. Following in the footsteps of Rwandan referee Salima Mukansenga, Bouchra has made history by officiating one of the largest competitions in Africa.

She also become the first Arab female referee in the AFCON. Expressing her happiness and pride in representing Moroccan and Arab women, the 36-year-old referee, who also serves as a police officer, credits her regular job for enhancing her skills as a referee.

Bouchra commends CAF for their efforts in promoting women referees in such prestigious competitions.

South Africa’s goalkeeper, Ronwen Williams, has also left a lasting impression on the minds of AFCON fans. With four penalty saves in the team’s match against Cape Verde and leading the team as captain, Williams played a crucial role in their journey to the semi-finals.

However, South Africa was ultimately defeated by Nigeria in a penalty shootout during the quarterfinals.

Congo DR will compete against South Africa in the third-place playoff match scheduled for Saturday.

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