YouAnd then the ball suddenly moved restlessly in the net. It was the 65th minute of the second semi-final match of '34. African Cups, when a smile crossed Sebastién Haller's face, at least for a small moment. His team, Côte d'Ivoire, was in control from the start of the match against the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But despite the superiority, not much was achieved on the front. Haller himself had missed a brilliant headed opportunity shortly before the break: he shook his head in annoyance and his expression, already rarely positive, darkened even more.

It seemed a little magical. But then a cross from Max Gradel from the right went into the area. The Congolese defenders made a mistake and Haller volleyed in from behind. This shot also missed: Haller somehow hit half of the bullet with his shin.

This gave the ball such a spin that it landed on Lionel Mpasi-Nzau, the Congo goalkeeper, and into the net. 1:0 for them Ivory Coast. Should be enough. In the remaining minutes the rival no longer had enough energy to counterattack.

Haller gives security to the “elephants”

So the tournament for the host team turns out to be the festival they expected, after a strange course of events for them. The Ivorians were practically eliminated after a disastrous preliminary round, they had already fired their coach and were mentally devastated. But suddenly the turning point came: thanks to the favorable results of the competition, they reached the round of 16 under substitute coach Emerse Faé. And now it's in the final against Nigeria on Sunday (9:00 p.m., live on DAZN).

One of the greatest hopes: the scorer of the semifinals. Sebastién Haller was not brilliant against Congo. His movements seemed slow, neither lively nor explosive. It is evident that the BVB striker still lacks the necessary physical fitness to return to the level that made him so interesting for Dortmund Borussia in the summer of 2022.

But the mere presence of the 1.90 meter tall forward seems to give the “Elephants”, as the team is called, security and some self-confidence these days. The attacker suffered an ankle injury at the start of the tournament and was only included in the squad for the round of 16.

Abidjan dances and celebrates

And with it came successes. Haller came on as a substitute in the matches against Senegal (win on penalties) and Mali (2-1 nV). against the players Democratic Republic of Congowho had protested during the national anthem against the rebel war in the east of his country, the 29-year-old player was from the beginning on the completely dry and wrinkled field of the new stadium.

And it has brought a feeling of happiness to the 30 million inhabitants of the Ivory Coast, who today feel addicted to football. There was partying and dancing all night long in the streets of Abidjan. “We're proud to have made all these people happy,” he said after the game.

This change will also be observed with special interest in Dortmund. During the last weeks and months, the Ivorian had fallen into a real slump in form from which he seemed unable to find a way out. At the latest after the signing of Niclas Füllkrug, Haller, who cost more than 30 million euros in 2022, fell back to second place with the black and yellow. At least Haller was seen smiling again at the African Cup. Even if it was for a very short time.