The Elephants are the first host country to reach the AFCON final since Egypt in 2006, and yet they came within a whisker of exiting the competition in the group stage after a stunning 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea on January 22. "We have made a spectacular recovery. We all went through a difficult time after the defeat against Equatorial Guinea," Borussia Dortmund striker Haller told reporters in Abidjan on Saturday.
"We don't have much to lose now, as long as we give our maximum. We have been lucky enough to get a second chance so we need to make sure we leave with no regrets." The Equatorial Guinea loss was the Ivorians' heaviest ever at home, and they only qualified for the knockout phase as one of the best third-placed teams after other results went in their favour.
"What has happened has really brought us all closer together, because we know how close we came to this ending in a nightmare," added Haller. They beat holders Senegal on penalties in the last 16 and then ousted Mali in dramatic fashion in extra time in the quarter-finals, before a solitary Haller goal secured a 1-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo in the last four.
It was a special moment for Haller, who in the last year has overcome testicular cancer and the agony of missing out on the German Bundesliga title with Dortmund on the final day of last season. He then missed the start of the AFCON due to injury, only making his first start of the tournament in the semi-final.
"The last year has been quite challenging for myself, my family, everyone. I am just trying to enjoy and take things step by step. I just hope I will enjoy tomorrow as well," he added.
The match at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium is a repeat of the clash between the sides in theirRead on besoccer.com