The Ivory Coast team won the African Cup

The Ivory Coast team won the African Cup

The African Cup gave football one of the most miraculous victories in its history. The Ivory Coast team, the host of the tournament, was almost eliminated in the group stage, and in the playoffs constantly found itself in the role of catching up, but took gold, defeating the Nigerians in the final - 2:1. And this African Cup also gave football a very bright hero. We are talking about the author of the decisive goal, Sebastien Halle, who only last year returned to the field after overcoming cancer, and broke into his team at the regional championship, missing some matches due to an ankle injury.

This African Cup will, of course, go down in the history of football as one of the most extraordinary events ever to take place. And its outcome is more like a plot for a sports movie, into which it is always useful to mix in more incredible twists, than a plot from real football life.

In real life, the Ivory Coast team, of course, would never reach the gold of the home tournament. It looked disgusting in the group stage, and after a devastating 0:4 loss to the Equatorial Guinea team in the final round, its leaders even fired coach Jean-Louis Gasse, being sure that everything was a disaster. You can advance from third place in the quartet to the playoffs only by finishing in the top four among the six teams that finished in the same position. But is it worth hoping for happiness with three points scored and a goal difference of minus three?

But the Ivorians were lucky and made it to the cup stage. And already in the playoffs, with the new coach Emers Fae, they were hanging by a thread all the time. In the 1/8 finals against the mighty Senegalese they somehow restored the balance at the end of regulation time, and then drew out a penalty shootout. In the quarterfinals against the Malians, they were in the minority even before the break, then conceded a goal, but came back a few minutes before the final whistle, even later than in the previous match, to put the squeeze on their opponents in overtime. In the semi-finals with the DR Congo team, although they did not allow the opponents to open the scoring, they suffered and advanced thanks to a single goal in the middle of the second half. The final against the Nigerians was quite in line with the trend. At the end of the first half, the Ivory Coast team found itself in the role of catching up, after a pause turning everything upside down.

But the thing is that this incredible performance, contrary to logic and common sense, also had an incredible main character, whose background adds fabulousness to the plot.

In July 2022, Sébastien Allais, a native of Paris, having already gone through all the youth and youth teams of France, who decided that at the adult level he would play for the team of Côte d'Ivoire, the homeland of his mother, moved from Ajax to Borussia Dortmund as the great hope of the famous German club. The tall forward, similar in texture and behavior on the field to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, already had solid experience in leading championships, earned at Eintracht and West Ham. And in the Dutch club in the previous season, he made a big splash in the Champions League, scoring in all six matches of the group stage. Until now, only Cristiano Ronaldo has managed this.

In general, he was already an established 27-year-old player, ready for another career breakthrough, but instead of a breakthrough, immediately after the transfer he learned that he had testicular cancer. Then there were two operations, four courses of chemotherapy and forever etched in his memory memories of how the doctor convinced him not to give up and not think about retiring from his career.

Allais returned to Borussia, who had waited for him, in January 2023 and, as it turned out, he had not lost his talent and scoring instincts during the months of grueling fight against the disease. But before the African Cup, fate again tripped him up. In December, the striker, whom the Ivorians were counting on, injured his ankle quite seriously.

He still went to the tournament, but could not play in the group stage. And when the Ivory Coast team did make it to the play-offs, Emers Fae realized that he couldn’t do without Sebastien Halle, no matter what form he was in, and threw him into battle at the end of the match with the Senegalese, when necessary was to look for a way out of the impasse. He was found largely thanks to Alla. He then came on as a substitute against the Malians and was again good, hitting the post once. And after that there were two decisive goals from Allais - in matches against the Congolese and Nigerians, whom he killed, terribly cleverly, just in the style of Ibrahimovic, kicking Simon Adingra's cross into the net.

Alexey Dospehov

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