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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Wunderkind Amad Diallo endears himself to Ivorian fans with a stunning free kick to seal 2-1 friendly victory over rivals Burkina Faso

The hype around Manchester United starlet Amad Diallo has been steadily building but now it is at a fever pitch following the 18-year-old’s wonder strike from a free-kick to seal a dramatic 2-1 friendly victory for Ivory Coast over neighbors and rivals Burkina Faso on Saturday. There is no such thing as a “friendly” match when the two nations meet on the pitch and the atmosphere and intensity was reflective of a game that was truly more than an exhibition. Les Étalons put in a spirited and defensively stubborn effort, opening the scoring before succumbing to a late rally against an Ivory Coast side that was fueled by passionate fan support in Abidjan.

It was a dream start for the Burkinabés, who toughed out an early series of opportunities from Les Eléphants before stunning the home crowd by finding the opener. Bayer Leverkusen defender Edmond Tapsoba led by example and created the game’s first goal by slickly navigating his way past the Ivorian high press, finding room in the midfield before slipping a perfectly weighted through ball to Lassina “Franck” Traoré that sent the Ajax striker in on goal. Traoré displayed nothing but calm and composure as he looked up to observe keeper Badra Ali Sangare’s position before opting for accuracy, slotting a low finish into the corner from outside the penalty area.

After the opener from Traoré, it was Burkinabé keeper Hervé Kouakou Koffi’s chance to shine. Koffi came up with a few brilliant saves, none better than the cat-like reflexes displayed when he pushed Hassane Kamara’s 31st minute header over the bar following a corner kick. Burkinabé playmaker Bertrand Traoré kept the Ivorian defense honest but the match steadily became dominated by the Ivorian midfield and attack. The visitors fortunes took a turn for the worse when before halftime, Koffi’s foot was stepped on as he cleared a ball under tight pressure. The keeper tried to play on but eventually had to be withdrawn, his distraught reaction reflecting the importance of the “friendly” match between rivals.

USFA keeper Farid Ouédraogo came on for his debut in the toughest of circumstances and the domestic-based backstop did well but faced an Ivorian onslaught in the second half. The defense of Les Étalons held out bravely but set piece defending proved to eventually be their undoing. A 72nd minute Max Gradel free kick found a wide open Ibrahim Sangare at the far post and the PSV Eindhoven midfielder volleyed home low past Ouédraogo to equalize. Sangare was wide open again soon after on another set piece but couldn’t finish this time around.

A foul was called just outside the Burkinabé penalty area in the dying seconds of stoppage time and the home crowd waited with eager anticipation as the stage was set for a dramatic winner. Diallo, who had come on as a substitute in the 63rd minute, was more than happy to oblige and dispatched an unstoppable free kick into the top corner that left Ouédraogo with absolutely no chance. The Stade Olympique Alassane Outtara was thrown into bedlam with the winner and Diallo was the subject of all conversation following the match.

Highlights from the match are below.