AFCON 2024 final: Nigeria & Ivory Coast go head-to-head once more

The 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) is nearing its conclusion, with Sunday's climax expected to be a fitting finale to a tournament that has captivated not just Africa, but the entire football world.

The duelists are Nigeria and hosts Ivory Coast, and despite the two being heavyweights in the West African sub-region, they aren't really rivals in the sense that they are with other neighbours.

Even so, there is enough previous history between them to give both sets of fans and neutrals alike plenty to look forward to.

Nigeria vs Ivory Coast
Photo by Icon Sport

Nigeria vs Ivory Coast: High scores and goalless draws

Limiting our sample size to AFCON, international friendlies, and AFCON and FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast have served up 22 previous encounters, with the former winning seven to the latter's six — pretty even, yes.

Their highest-scoring meetings have come in two five-goal thrillers that saw Nigeria triumph on both occasions (3-2, May 1967 friendly; 4-1, September 1993 World Cup qualifier), while there have been three goalless games, the most recent of which came in a June 1985 friendly.

Speaking of recency, the Super Eagles are just three weeks removed from their last victory over the Ivory Coast, prevailing 1-0 when they met in a Group A fixture at the ongoing tournament courtesy of a William Troost-Ekong penalty — a first-ever victory over the Ivorians on their own soil.

But the Elephants would have to dig deeper into the past — some nine years, to be precise — for the last time they beat Nigeria, in a pre-AFCON friendly game contested in Abu Dhabi.

The Ivorians would proceed to win the tournament itself, dethroning Nigeria (who failed to qualify) as African champions.

Nigeria vs Ivory Coast – Super Eagles hold AFCON edge

The aforementioned AFCON 2024 group game included, the two sides have done battle a total of seven times at the continental showpiece, going all the way back to the 1980 edition.

That was the first time Nigeria hosted the competition and it yielded their maiden victory, too.

The victorious team of which Nigerians still speak fondly — featuring legends like Christian Chukwu, Emmanuel Okala, Segun Odegbami, Adokiye Amiesimaka and Muda Lawal — beat every opponent on their way to glory but one: the Ivory Coast.

That distinction would have been of little solace to an Ivorian team that failed to win a game themselves, however, as they crashed out in the first round.

Another group-stage meeting came a decade later in Algiers, Algeria, settled by a third-minute Rashidi Yekini goal that the Ivory Coast never recovered from; the result left them with not enough points to avoid another early exit, two years before they became champions for the first time.

A semi-final clash came at Tunisia 1994, won by Nigeria on penalties — after a 2-2 draw — en route to winning their second African title.

But the Ivory Coast finally found some joy against Nigeria a dozen years later in Egypt, Didier Drogba scoring the only goal to get his country into an AFCON final for the first time since they won the whole thing in 1992.

And Nigeria would find themselves on the losing end again at the succeeding AFCON, hosted by Ghana, also by the margin of a solitary goal, Salomon Kalou the scorer.

Normal service would resume when they next they crossed paths, Nigeria beating the Ivory Coast with strikes from Emmanuel Emenike and Sunday Mba either side of the late Cheick Tiote's consolatory strike.

That was in the quarter-finals, with the great Nigerian Stephen Keshi (also now deceased) steering his team to glory two more games later in Johannesburg.

Will history repeat itself in AFCON 2024 final?

As it happens, each time Nigeria have gone on to win the AFCON, they've faced the Ivory Coast at some stage and avoided defeat.

The Super Eagles have already done so once this time and would be required to do it just once more to repeat the trick.

Or, perhaps, would the tables turn?

The game will take place at the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium in Ebimpé on Sunday, 11 February. Kickoff is at 9pm Nigeria time.

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Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu is a purpose-driven Ghanaian sports writer with a sharp eye for excellence. He has had stints with and He loves to talk and write about football on the African continent.