Mali faces the Africa Cup of Nations host, Ivory Coast, at Stade de la Paix on Saturday, aiming to move into the semi-finals.
The Eagles beat Burkina Faso in the round of 16, while Ivory Coast overcame the defending champions Senegal in Yamoussoukro in their first knockout match.
A record will be broken on Saturday, but Mali hopes it won’t be theirs as they aim for the semi-finals of AFCON 2023, having never lost a quarter-final match.
Although the Eagles have consistently passed the quarter-finals in previous tournaments when it was a 16-team event (1994, 2002, 2004, 2012, and 2013), this is their first time reaching this stage since the tournament expanded. They were eliminated in the round of 16 in 2019 and 2021.
Eric Chelle’s team wants to keep their strong tournament performance going, especially after Senegal’s surprising defeat by Ivory Coast, who have dominated this West African rivalry.
Mali has never won against the Elephants in AFCON, with four losses and one draw, making them the underdogs in Bouake.
The Eagles are hoping for a start as good as their last match against Burkina Faso, where they scored early and secured a 2-1 victory, aiming to overcome their struggles against Ivory Coast.
Ivory Coast rallied from a goal down against Senegal, with Sebastien Haller, Simon Adingra, and particularly Nicolas Pepe playing crucial roles. Pepe earned the penalty that Franck Kessie converted, leading to a win in the shootout.
It’s uncertain if Emerse Fae’s team can continue their momentum from the round of 16, but starting slow could be risky against Mali, who haven’t fallen behind yet in the finals.
With Mali unbeaten and holding onto leads well, Ivory Coast looks to leverage home advantage and their strong record against Mali, hoping to reach the semi-finals for the first time since their 2015 victory.
Lassine Sinayoko stands out for Mali, scoring three of their four goals at the finals.
Amadou Haidara’s participation is doubtful after an injury during the match against Burkina Faso, and his presence in the lineup is uncertain.
Yves Bissouma’s role is also uncertain, having started half of Mali’s games so far.
For Ivory Coast, patience with Haller and Adingra might lead to them starting in this crucial match.
Ibrahim Sangare and Odilon Kossounou’s availability is uncertain due to injuries sustained against Senegal.
Mali possible starting lineup:
H. Traore, Kouyate, Niakate, Sacko;
Coulibaly, Bissouma, Camara;
A. Traore, Sinayoko
Ivory Coast possible starting lineup:
Aurier, Kossounou, Ndicka, Konan;
Pepe, Fofana, Adingra;
Prediction: Mali 1-2 Ivory Coast
We predict the host nation, Ivory Coast, will win and move into the semi-finals in front of their supporters.