Sebastien Haller has made history. His goal secured Ivory Coast their third Africa Cup of Nations title. A goal with immense significance. For a whole country, but also for Haller personally. In this interview, he talked about that indescribable moment, the unusual route to glory, his feelings of joy and the meaning of the title.

Seb, first of all, congratulations once again on this outstanding success. You fired your country to the title, but for a long time it was not even clear whether you would be able to take part in the tournament at all. You injured your ankle in the match against Mainz in mid-December.
"Firstly, thank you very much for the congratulations! Yes, that's true. I was somewhat shocked directly after the injury in December. I thought about it a lot and wondered whether I would even be able to play at the Africa Cup of Nations. I didn't know what to think before I received the diagnosis. It was a feeling of fear. When I subsequently received the diagnosis, I was of course slightly disappointed. At the same time there was also stress because I knew that I could make it on time. Even if it was going to be a long road. I spent the Christmas period travelling with my family in the Ivory Coast. It wasn't easy on crutches; I couldn't really clear my head before the tournament."

You were not in the squad for any of the group games due to your injury. You picked up only three points and progressed as one of the four best third-placed teams. What was that like for you?
"It was very hard because I couldn't intervene. We'd been looking forward to this tournament in our own country for a long time. It was not only a big event for the players, but for all the people around us who had worked for the tournament to be held in the Ivory Coast. It meant a great deal to all the people in this country. The poor games in the group stages meant we had to hope for a miracle, which did then occur. It's incredible we survived the group phase with three points and a goal difference of -3. We knew we'd been given a second chance that we simply couldn't throw away."


You started the tournament in the round of 16. You twice had to play extra-time up until the semi-finals. Probably nerve-wracking, right?
"It was very exciting. But not just on the pitch. There were doubts and pressure from everywhere. You're representing your country in front of millions of spectators. It wasn't easy, but at the same time it makes me proud, of course. We battled hard; it wasn't easy, but in the end we made it to the semi-finals."

You not only decided the final. You also scored the decisive goal in the 1-0 victory against DR Congo in the semi-finals. It was a curious one.
"I knew that Gradel was going to cross the ball into the centre after his dribble down the right. During his run, I created some space for myself in front of the defenders. If I hadn't been injured, I would probably have tried a bicycle kick, but I then decided to strike the ball on the volley. It was probably the worst way to hit the ball, but it went in anyway. That's sometimes how it goes as a striker."


And then came the final in Abidjan and the African title in your country. You were the hero of the match, take us through it.
"I knew from the beginning that we could do it. Strangely, my phone could no longer receive any messages two hours before the match. But that was also a good thing; I was very focused and only want to concentrate on this one game. We were well in the game and the equaliser through Kessie gave us a real push. We always believed we could do it. For my goal, I somehow tried to make contact with the ball. When I then saw it hit the net, it was a feeling that one simply cannot describe. All the feelings and memories from the past suddenly came into my head. I thought to myself: 'Is this really possible? Is this reality? Finally!' I was very happy but then also immediately hoped that we could hold onto the lead. I wasn't on a cloud, I was on the moon."

And then you saw the win over the line. The scenes after the match were unbelievable – where does the title rank for you personally?
"This title comes above all else for me. The joy and the memories that we have brought to our country are incredible. It means a lot to us and to everyone in Ivory Coast. The expectations were very high and football there is not just a hobby. It means everything to the people. To have won this trophy and to have been part of this story is the best thing that I could've imagined. I dreamt of this ending a million times and then it really happened."


There were certainly also a lot of people crossing their fingers for you in Dortmund, weren't there?
"Yes! I got many messages from the lads and from the coach and was really delighted with the support. And of course with the photo from the training ground prior to the final. The reception on my return was cool. I honestly didn't expect so much, but I wasn't surprised either. I know the boys and I know that they are capable of preparing things like this. I had to sympathise with the people who had to clean everything up afterwards. I even found confetti in my rucksack at home (laughs)."

You're currently unable to train with the team. What kind of contact do you have with the team?
"I see the boys every day and do my recovery programme at the training ground. I want to get back on the pitch as soon as possible. I'm looking forward to supporting the boys at the stadium and finally seeing the Yellow Wall again."