African Nations Cup Semi-Final Preview: Mali vs Ivory Coast
Africa Cup of Nations 2012
- Venue: Stade del’Amitie, Libreville
- Stage: Semi-final
- Date: Wednesday, 08 February
- Kick-off: 1900 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on Eurosport; live text commentary and full report plus reaction on the BBC Sport website and mobiles
Mali coach Alain Giresse says several players need fitness tests on Wednesday morning, while refusing to name names.
Midfield star Seydou Keita has an ankle knock but should be fit.
Meanwhile, Ivory Coast coach Francois Zahoui is sweating on the fitness of goalkeeper Boubacar Barry, who picked up an injury in Saturday’s win over Equatorial Guinea.
Salomon Kalou has fully recovered from his thigh problem and should be fit.
Mali are contesting a remarkable fifth semi-final from just seven Nations Cup appearances but the Eagles have yet to return to the final since reaching it on their tournament debut in 1972 – only to lose to Congo.
They have not scored in their three semi-finals since which does not bode well ahead of their Libreville clash with tournament favourites Ivory Coast, who have won the side’s two previous Nations Cup encounters.
Unlike the Elephants, Mali have already been beaten at these finals – losing 2-0 to Group D winners Ghana – and now face a side who have won all their games, while netting eight goals without conceding.
“Their results reflect the quality of the squad – a team with talent and lots of potential,” says Giresse. “But we’ll stop there. We don’t want the players to fear Ivory Coast. You can’t prepare for a game like that.”
Mali needed penalties to beat co-hosts Gabon in Sunday’s quarter-final, while the Ivorians sailed through their match against fellow co-host Equatorial Guinea on Saturday, winning 3-0.
The Elephants, who boast a vastly superior record against the Eagles in all previous encounters, are aiming to reach their second final from four tournaments – and only their third overall after winning the title in 1992.
After failing to lift recent Nations Cups despite their favourites tag, coach Francois Zahoui will not take Mali lightly – with the Ivorian having firmly placed the need for results over playing style at this tournament.
“Many so-called favourites have gone home,” he says. “It’s a very good challenge and we’ll approach it with humility and determination. We remain focused, knowing we face a team that beat the host country.”
- Ivory Coast 3 – 0 Equatorial Guinea (Video) (indepthafrica.com)
- Co-hosts Equatorial Guinea seek another Nations Cup upset (indepthafrica.com)
- Gabon 1-1 Mali (Mali win 5-4 on penalties) – Video (indepthafrica.com)
- African Cup of Nations wrap: Ivory Coast into last eight (indepthafrica.com)