AFCON 2023: Ivory Coast stuns Mali with remarkable comeback to reach semi-finals


In an electrifying clash at the Stade de la Paix in Bouake, Ivory Coast orchestrated a jaw-dropping comeback to defeat Mali 2-1 after extra time, securing their spot in the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals.

The hosts displayed resilience, overcoming the adversity of playing with 10 men after Odilon Kossounou’s early dismissal and securing victory with a late, dramatic goal.

The match started with high stakes as Kossounou fouled Lassine Sinayoko in the box, resulting in a red card and a penalty for Mali. However, Ivory Coast goalkeeper Yahia Fofana emerged as the hero, denying Adama Traore’s spot kick and keeping the Elephants level at halftime. The save proved pivotal as the game unfolded into a thrilling spectacle of skill and determination.

Despite being outnumbered, the hosts conceded in the 71st minute when Mali’s substitute Nene Dorgeles fired a precise shot from the edge of the box, giving the Eagles a well-deserved lead. The Ivorians, however, showcased their fighting spirit, equalizing against the run of play through Simon Adingra, who capitalized on a rebound after Seko Fofana’s long-range effort was parried.

As the clock ticked into extra time, Ivory Coast goalkeeper Fofana continued to showcase his heroics, denying Mali’s attempts and keeping the dream alive for the tournament hosts. With penalties looming, Oumar Diakete etched his name into the history books, scoring a dramatic late winner with a clever backheel finish in the 119th minute.

The victory marked a historic moment for Ivory Coast, with several noteworthy match facts adding to the significance of their achievement. It was the first time since 1992 that Ivory Coast had won an Africa Cup of Nations game that went to extra time.

The team showcased incredible resilience, with players like Adingra and Diakete stepping up when it mattered the most.

In the post-match comments, Ivory Coast coach Emerse Faé expressed his elation, acknowledging the challenging nature of the game.

Faé highlighted the difficulty of playing against a formidable team like Mali, especially after the early red card. He praised the players for not giving up and commended their tactical prowess, emphasizing the positive signs that bode well for the team’s future in the tournament.

Mali’s head coach, Éric Sékou Chelle, lamented the heartbreaking loss, acknowledging the collapse in the last minutes of the match. Chelle praised his players for their performance but expressed sadness for a talented generation that deserved more.

He also raised concerns about the officiating, citing instances of unawarded penalties and a legitimate red card.

With this remarkable comeback win, Ivory Coast has set the stage for an epic showdown against DR Congo in the semi-finals at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan on Wednesday, 07 February. The Elephants will look to carry the momentum from this thrilling victory into the next phase of the Africa Cup of Nations, keeping their dreams of lifting the trophy alive.

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