A late Wilfred Zaha goal ensured that luckless Mali bowed out of the AFCON 2019. The Malians will leave Egypt with a lot of regrets after wasting an avalanche of opportunities to eventually fall to Ivory Coast 1-0.
The Eagles, who had suffered countless defeats at the hand of the Elephants at several AFCON finals, had vowed to take their revenge this time and the determination showed clearly from the blast of the whistle.
In the first half, Mali had 10 goal chances as opposed to 2 for Ivory Coast but centre forward Moussa Marega, winger Moussa Djenepo and Co. lacked the cutting edge to break the deadlock.
The Ivorians, who were a shadow of themselves, managed to keep the scoreline goalless at the end of first half, with the Malians rue their misses.
The Eagles began the second stanza with high pace like in the first but after some more failures in front of goal they began to evince frustrations and fatigue.
Top European transfer target Nicolas Pepe was a flop once more and was substituted by Lyon forward Maxwel Cornet, who immediately brought some boost and inspiration to side.
Ivory Coast gradually found their rhythm and began to hold and use the ball the more as the Malians retreat on the defensive.
Wilfried Zaha was released into Mali’s box, after outpacing a defender, he slotted his effort beyond goalkeeper Djigui Diarra to put Ivory Coast ahead in the 76th minute.
Mali poured forth across the remainder of the meeting in an attempt to pull level but the Ivorians held on to their victory.
Ivory Coast will meet Algeria in the quarterfinals on July 11 in Suez, Egypt.