Sebastian Halled scored the winning goal as Cote d'Ivoire won the 2023 AFCON at the expense of Nigeria
Sebastian Halled scored the winning goal as Cote d'Ivoire won the 2023 AFCON at the expense of Nigeria

Meet Sebastian Haller: The Cote d'Ivoire striker who aided his country to secure third AFCON title

In the world of football, where the spotlight often shines brightest on the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, there emerges a new sensation, a striker whose prowess in the UEFA Champions League has turned heads and captured hearts. 

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His name? Sebastien Haller. Hailing from the Ivory Coast, Haller has not only made a name for himself but has also etched his mark in the annals of football history with a remarkable feat that neither Messi nor Ronaldo can boast of – scoring 11 goals in his first seven Champions League games.

Born on June 22, 1994, in France, Haller's journey to stardom has been nothing short of extraordinary.

From his early days honing his skills through the ranks of French-based youth academies of FCO Vigneux, Bretigny Foot and AJ Auxerre, Haller's dedication and talent were evident from a young age.

After impressing at academy levels, he was promoted to the first team and secured an initial loan move to Dutch side FC Utrecht in the 2014/2015 campaign which was eventually made permanent in the following season due to his goal-scoring abilities, earning plaudits and catching the eye of top clubs across Europe.

In 2017, Haller made a high-profile transfer to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga, where he continued to dazzle fans with his clinical finishing and aerial ability.

It was during his time at Frankfurt that he announced himself on the European stage, delivering standout performances in the UEFA Europa League and earning widespread acclaim for his contributions to the team's success.

However, it was his move to Ajax in 2020 that truly catapulted him into the spotlight. Joining the Dutch giants for an audacious £22.5 million fee,

Haller wasted no time in making an impact. His debut season saw him become a vital cog in Ajax's attacking arsenal, terrorizing defenses with his lethal combination of speed, strength, and technique.

But it was in the Champions League where he truly left his mark, setting a record that even the likes of Messi and Ronaldo couldn't match – scoring 11 goals in his first 7 games in the competition.

In 2022, the then 27-year-old returned to the Bundesliga, this time with Borrusia Dortmund. Sadly, weeks into his arrival at the Signal Iduna Park, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and went under the knife.

This ensured that he was sidelined for six months before eventually breaking through to make his debut and return to professional football at the start of 2023. 

On the international stage, the former West Ham marksman represented France at all youth levels earning 51 caps and registering 25 goals along the way but eventually committed his international future to the Elephants of Ivory Coast whom he qualifies to represent through his mother.

He received his first call-up to the Cote d'Ivoire national team and debuted for the Elephants in an AFCON qualifier against Madagascar scoring his sides game winning goal in the 55th minute.

As the footballing world turned attention to the African Cup of Nations  final between the Ivory Coast and Nigeria, all eyes were on Sebastien Haller.

Haller became the hero for Ivory Coast again as the Elephants came from behind to beat Nigeria 2-1 to win the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations title on home soil.

The striker, who had also netted the semi-final winner just 13 months on from his return from testicular cancer, flicked in Simon Adingra's cross with the toe of his boot with nine minutes remaining to complete a second-half comeback and spark wild celebrations in Abidjan.

With his blistering form and unmatched scoring prowess, Haller was a key player for the Ivory Coast as they faced off against the Super Eagles in an intense showdown.

His ability to rise to the occasion on the biggest stage and deliver when it matters most was crucial to the Ivory Coast's chances of clinching glory and etching their names in the annals of African football history.

In a tournament brimming with talent and passion, Sebastien Haller stood tall as a shining beacon of hope for his.

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Plays a bit like Didier Drogba

Born to a French father and Ivorian mother, you can see why Haller idolised Didier Drogba as a kid growing up close to Paris where his hero had also spent much of his childhood. 

Like Drogba, Haller has come to the fore relatively late in his career, and shares many of the on-pitch and physical traits that helped the former Chelsea man collect so much silverware during his career. 

Able to hold the ball up and defenders off thanks to a secure first touch and his bantamweight-boxer physique, Haller's haul of over 50 assists in some 350 senior games across his career also shows he possesses the selfless streak and ability to tee up others better placed to score. 

An all-round finisher with head and both feet, he even has a penchant for spectacular goals, as his 2017/18 Goal of the Year winner attests.

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Age: 29
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Position: Striker
Country: Cote d'Ivoire (25 caps/9 goals)

 

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