Twice holder at the CAN, and twice decisive scorer! The Ivorians can now erect a statue to Sébastien Haller, the finisher who Ivory Coast missed at the start of the tournament.

Started for the first time on Wednesday February 7 in the CAN 2024 semi-final against DR Congo, center forward Sébastien Haller scored the winning goal. Above all, he constantly weighed on the Congolese defense while the Elephants finally delivered a controlled match.

You just had to live Sebastian Haller taking his team to the #TotalEnergiesAFCON2023 final.. 🤩🇨🇮@FIFCI_tweet | @HallerSeb

— CAF (@CAF_Online) February 8, 2024

Again in the final against Nigeria: the Ivorians, always fond of thrills, managed to equalize after being behind. Then Haller gave them the victory, throwing himself like a starving man on an Adingra cross to deflect the ball into the goal.

Read also: Ivory Coast wins its CAN by overthrowing Nigeria in the final

Already after the semi-final, Haller said he was relieved to have “finally made” an action. And promised to do everything possible to avoid further fears for the supporters: “I spent the start of the competition in the stands. I know how frustrating it is. I will do everything to avoid that”. Promise kept!


Sébastien Haller sends Ivory Coast to CAN final © France 24

“I told myself that I hadn't done all that for nothing,” explains Sébastien Haller, talking about the journey and the challenges he has overcome over the last two years, after testicular cancer and a nasty ankle injury just before the CAN. Injury which, by his own admission after the match, is still not treated... In theory, he should not even have returned to the field before this final.

“Haller is like the Ivory Coast. He has come a long way,” explained Emanuel Eboué, former international, finalist in 2006 with the Elephants, just before the final. “Côte d’Ivoire is proud to finally see him smile.”

Read alsoCAN 2024: thrice miraculous, Ivory Coast no longer fears anything

From Auxerre to Dortmund via Ajax

Son of an Ivorian mother and a French father, Sébastien Haller was born in Ris-Orangis, in the Paris region. He started playing football at the age of 9 and quickly appeared on the radar of AJ Auxerre, which he joined at the age of 13.

In the prestigious training club, the attacker impressed and was quickly upgraded. He quickly piled up goals among the U15s, even ending a season with 50 goals in 19 matches. At 16, he was already playing with the club's reserves in the CFA. He was launched into the pros in November 2013, where he had the difficult task of carrying the weight of the Auxerre attack, despite his young age.

The linear progression ends there. If his finishing qualities and his aerial game are unanimous, he is criticized for a certain nonchalance. Lacking playing time, he was loaned to the Netherlands, to Utrecht, with an option to buy. His career took off there and he made a series of record signings: Eintracht Frankfurt, West Ham then Ajax Amsterdam where he revealed himself to the world, notably in the Champions League. He scored 10 goals in the group stage alone for his discovery of the competition.

Cancer and doubts

After this season full of promise at Ajax Amsterdam, Sébastien Haller transferred to Borussia Dortmund. An arrival with great fanfare but the diagnosis of testicular cancer forced him to withdraw from the field in July 2022 for treatment. His career was put on hold for several months.

Although he returned to the field six months later, he never recovered his past performance and has now been chomping at the bit at Dortmund since the start of the season. Quite the opposite of the selection, which offers him a breath of fresh air: in six appearances since his cancer, he has scored four goals. Logically, he was impatiently awaiting the CAN. However, a very nasty injury in December in Mainz compromised his participation in the African Cup.

“I wanted to make my contribution”

“Coach Jean-Louis Gasset wondered for a long time whether to take him, just like for Simon Adingra [also injured at the start of the competition, NLDR]. Ultimately, they were going to bring us a lot,” explains Emerse Faé, the successor Frenchman at the helm of the Elephants. “These are two weapons of mass destruction.”

Sébastien Haller doesn't hide it, he had doubts for a long time: "I had planned to arrive in Ivory Coast during the holidays before the CAN to prepare myself as best as possible. Coming with a splint was not easy . I doubted,” he admits. “But I have a family, friends and a country who support me. They made me realize that I was important. It helped me to cope with the hours of care since December 21. I wanted to do my part to the building."

Given his personal journey, when he talks about resilience, the message is even stronger: "We all dreamed of this! We hoped to get there", he describes after the final at the microphone of BeIN Sports. “Once again, the match was not a smooth ride (...) We believed in it until the end, and my teammates pushed me to stay on the pitch as long as possible. If I score today, it's thanks to them. I had to set an example... and bring the Cup home!" Mission accomplished.

🌍 #beINCAN2023 #NIGCIV

🏆 Sébastien Haller: “I am hopeful that it will do good for a lot of people” #AFCON2023

— beIN SPORTS (@beinsports_FR) February 11, 2024

*This updated article is taken from the portrait published before the final

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