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Hosts Ivory Coast to face Nigeria in Africa Cup final

AP PHOTO

Ivory Coast's remarkable recovery goes on, as the hosts clinched an Africa Cup of Nations final spot that seemed unthinkable a fortnight ago.

Sebastien Haller sent Ivory Coast into the decider with a 1-0 win over Democratic Republic of Congo in Wednesday's semi-final at the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium.

Haller's 65th-minute goal continued a remarkable recovery by the Ivorians, who were almost eliminated in the group phase but will now take on Nigeria in Sunday's final.

A 4-0 loss to tiny Equatorial Guinea and the subsequent sacking of veteran French coach Jean Louis Gasset was all forgotten amid the celebrations of a capacity home crowd.

"It's like a dream for us. Two weeks ago we were far from thinking about the final," interim coach Emerse Fae said.

Nigeria beat South Africa on penalties in Wednesday's other semi-final in Bouake.

Haller was making his first start after an ankle injury and his goal had a touch of fortune about it as he miscued his shot which bounced over Congo goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi into the net.

He could have added a second three minutes later when a poor back pass sent him free - but although his effort to volley over the goalkeeper was clever, it was also off target.

Ivory Coast dominated as they continued their revival after squeezing through the first round as the last of the best third-placed group finishers.

Two weeks later they have become the first hosts to make the final since Egypt in 2006.

There they will face three-time winners Nigeria, who were given a scare but reached the final after goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali saved two penalties in the shoot-out to guide his side to victory over South Africa.

Nigeria had lost five of their previous six semi-finals at the continental finals and rode their luck in this one, which finished 1-1 after extra time.

William Troost-Ekong put Nigeria into the lead from the penalty spot midway through the second half, before South Africa earned a spot-kick of their own in the final minute of the 90 and it was converted by Teboho Mokoena.

"It was a very good victory against a very good team, the most organised team at the tournament," Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro said.

"We deserved to win, but (South Africa) deserved to win too."