by Osita Chinedu
The Elephants of Ivory Coast have booked a place in the semifinals of the Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023.
In an intensely contested Quarter Final match with the Eagles of Mali, the Elephants snatched a 1:2 late winner through an Oumar Diakite strike in the added minutes of the second half of extra time.
The Malian side came into the game as favourites of fans and pundits even as the Ivorian side was re-admitted into the tournament as the best losers having only 3 points from the 3 matches played in the group stage. More so, the most recent FIFA ranking placed the Malian team at number eight in Africa sitting above Ivory Coast who occupies the ninth spot.
The drama and intrigue of the match commenced with a Video Assisted Referee (VAR) review for a potential penalty spot kick to Mali in the twelfth minute.
The 16th minute got Odilon Kossounou of Ivory Coast into the referee’s book for a yellow card and a penalty awarded to Mali. It appeared like the Eagles have the lead until the chance was aborted by Adama Traore of Mali who missed to put the ball behind the goal.
Still a barren draw approaching the half time mark, the game took a dramatic turn as Odilon Kossounou of Ivory Coast already in the books got booked for a second offence and was sent off.
The highly sought-after lead came to the Eagles of Mali in the 71st minute through Nene Dorgeles strike.
The 10 men Elephants however proved contrary to pundits’ permutations and FIFA rankings that the jungle belongs to them through a come-back in the 90th minute. A goal from Simon Adingra was all that the hosts require to push the game further into extra time as it ended 1:1 at full time.
The atmosphere of Stade de la Paix held about 40,000 spectators spellbound as all eyes were fixed towards a possible penalty shootout. However, the drama of the night came to a climax in the 2nd minute of the added time. The one man down Ivorians put one goal past the Malian defence and goalkeeper to clench the semifinal spot.
The Elephants of Ivory Coast will be meeting DR Congo in one of the Semifinals while the Super Eagles of Nigeria will host the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in the other semifinal encounter all on We d, 7 Feb.