African champions Ivory Coast will attempt to keep their momentum going when they face arch-rivals Mali in the African Nations Championship semi-final in Rwanda on Thursday.
The Elephants, who have twice failed to go beyond the group stage in the biennial championship, confirmed their place with a stunning 3-0 extra-time win over another West African side Cameroon in the quarter-finals.
The victory, which came hot on the heels of their 4-1 demolition of Gabon in the group phase, proved the Ivorian dominant form under new coach Michel Dussuyer, who has been full of praise for the team’s grit and performance.
“The Ivory Coast are gaining momentum,” the Frenchman said after the match against Cameroon. “We still need to fight to push back our limits.”
Mali also showed they were no pushovers in their 2-1 comeback win over pre-tournament favourites and former title holders, Tunisia, to reach their first-ever CHAN semi-finals.
The Eagles are expected to rely on their forwards Mamadou Sissoko and Aly Malle, who was a member of the youth team that finished runner-up to Nigeria at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015 last November.
The match at Kigali’s Stade Regional Nyamirambo will mark the 33rd meeting in international football between the two teams.
Cameroon drew 1-1 with Mali in the group phase of the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.
Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who face off in the first semi-final at the Amahoro national stadium on Wednesday, prevailed on penalties and extra-time respectively, to qualify to the last four.
The Syli Nationale, making their debut in the competition, dominated former African Cup of Nations champions Zambia, before winning 5-4 in the penalty shoot-out after regulation and extra time.
After saving two penalties, Guinea goalkeeper Abdul Aziz Keita scored the decisive spot kick, to send his team into the semi-final.
DRCongo, boasting an array of players from the country’s two dominant clubs
TP Mazembe and AS Vita Club — will be without their inspirational forward Heritier Luvumbu.
The AS Vita club star picked up a serious knee injury in the 2-1 extra-time winner over hosts Rwanda in the quarter-final.
The Florent Ibenge-coached side have been tight from the frontline with Luvumbu, Guy Bolingi and Meshack Elia playing the instrumental roles in their campaign.
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