Mali v Ivory Coast 19:00 Wed
Ivory Coast will look to continue their seemingly relentless march towards the Africa Cup of Nations final as Paddy Power make them heavy odds on favourites when they take on Mali in the semi-finals in Libreville on Wednesday.
François Zahoui’s side were able to secure qualification for the knockout stages at a canter and breezed past Equatorial Guinea thanks to two goals from Didier Drogba and an effort from Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, and now the favourites come up against one of the form teams of the tournament, Mali.
Led by a host of Premier League stars, the Ivory Coast have done what most expected of them before the tournament – breeze past their opponents – but now they face a Mali that edged hosts Gabon in the quarter finals by virtue of penalties.
Barcelona and Mali star Seydou Keita provided his countrymen with a shock when he was forced to sit out of training on Tuesday, but head coach Alain Giresse remains adamant that there is nothing wrong with the midfielder and that he will start against the Ivory Coast.
Mali will be relying upon the likes of Modibo Maiga and Cheick Diabete to break down an obdurate Ivory Coast defence that has yet to concede a goal across the whole tournament, yet stands accused of not using their Premier League stars to full effect and relying too heavily upon defence.
Mali have struggled for goals so far and can count upon Keita and Garra Dembele, who have one goal apiece, as their top scorers.
For the Elephants, Chelsea wideman Salomon Kalou will have a late fitness test on a hamstring injury he picked up earlier in the tournament, with Zahoui rating Kalou as a serious doubt for the game.
Mali will have their hands full in trying to deal with Drogba, who has demonstrated his trademark power and strength to help his country make the semi-finals, picking up three goals so far to make him the tournament’s joint top scorer.