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AFCON 2023 Quarterfinal Preview: Ivory Coast vs Mali

The quarterfinals continue from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday with a match between West African nations that features hosts Ivory Coast against Mali. Once left for dead following a lopsided 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea at the end of the group stage, the Elephants of Ivory Coast bounced back with a victory over defending champions Senegal to give Ivorians hope once again of a trophy on home soil. A determined Malian team stands in the way that has only conceded twice through four matches. Read more on both teams in our preview below:

Ivory Coast vs Mali- 17:00 GMT

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast striker Sébastien Haller made an instant impact as a substitute in his 2023 AFCON debut against Senegal and is set to play a role either from the beginning or once again off the bench

For Ivory Coast there was little to lose against Senegal and the Elephants enjoyed the role of underdogs with a strong performance before allowing their home support to carry them through in a penalty shootout victory. Now the hosts are once again favorites and it will be interesting to see how they handle it considering their awful results in Group A. Interim coach Emerse Faé pointed out that he knows his team well and has spent plenty of time with the players, something that allows for an easy transition and immediate success.

Faé made a couple of notable adjustments that boosted the defense against Senegal. Veteran defensive midfielder Jean Michaël Seri and central defender Odilon Kossounou made their first appearances of the competition and Seri in particular was spectacular. Kossounou came off with cramps in extra time against Senegal but should be fit to resume his duties alongside Evan Ndicka in the center of defense. Ghislain Konan and Serge Aurier are excellent attackers from their full back positions and Yahia Fofana will continue as the goalkeeper.

Midfielder Franck Kessié began on the bench against Senegal but is likely to come back into the eleven to partner Seri and Seko Fofana, who is enjoying a more attacking role. It is difficult to know who Faé will use on the wings but it appears that he favors veteran Max Gradel and there is a good chance that Simon Adingra will have an increased role as well as either Christian Kouamé or Nicolas Pépé. Jean-Philippe Krasso has been the preferred striker up top but Sébastien Haller continues to gain fitness and could play from the beginning this time.

Mali

Mali captain and right back Hamari Traoré provided an important assist against Burkina Faso in the Round of 16 and is a steady veteran presence for Les Aigles

Mali is a talented team who depend on their midfield to dictate the tempo of the match and apply pressure on opponents with increasing expectations from their supporters. The Eagles won Group E and the confidence of the group continues to grow with each victory in Ivory Coast. Coach Éric Chelle described Saturday’s contest as an emotional match and he hopes to take advantage of the occasion to get the best out of his players.

Consistent performances at the fullback positions and the midfield are the foundation for Les Aigles. Right back and captain Hamari Traoré dominated his flank in the 2-1 Round of 16 victory over Burkina Faso and the Real Sociedad player is a strong candidate for best right back at the competition. Falaye Sacko is a reliable defender on the left flank who is a bit limited offensively while Kiki Kouyaté and Sikou Niakaté continue to grow their confidence in the center of the defense. Goalkeeper Djigui Diarra is a strong shot stopper but can be questionable on crosses and aerial balls.

Monaco midfielder Mohamed Camara appears to be at full fitness after making his first start of the AFCON against Burkina Faso and joins Amadou Haidara as reliable midfielders who perform defensive duties well. They are joined by Lassana Coulibaly behind creative midfielder Kamory Doumbia who continues to impress in Ivory Coast. Chelle chose to play Hull City playmaker Adama Traoré as a withdrawn option behind striker Lassine Sinayoko who is the only goal scorer that is producing good form in the competition. Sekou Koïta appears to be the next choice at striker and Fousseni Diabaté is another attacking player who is versatile and can make an impact off the bench.

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