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X A. Traoré (17), N. Dorgeles (71), H. Traoré (120)
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Cote d'Ivoire survive Kossounou red to produce another AFCON miracle

By Peter Weis   @PeterVicey

Hosts of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations Cote d'Ivoire have pulled off yet another miracle, fighting back to draw and then ultimately beat quarterfinal opponents Mali despite being reduced to ten men. 

The 2015 continental champions overcame a sending off for Bayer 04 Leverkusen central defender Odilon Kossounou at the end of the opening 45 and a 0-1 deficit as the match entered second half injury time. 

Les Elephants - operating under an interim trainer no less - now advance to the deepest phase of the tournament since their 2015 championship run. Two Bundesliga professionals advance. Two more are headed home. 
Cote d'Ivoire fans
Cote d'Ivoire fansBen Sutherland CC BY-SA 2.0
After escaping the group phases by the skin of their teeth and only prevailing against defending champions Senegal thanks to a late equalizer and tense shootout in the Round-of-16, 2023 Africa Cup of Nations hosts Cote d'Ivoire have produced yet another spectacular miracle. Les Elephants found themselves at a man disadvantage and trailing 0-1 against Mali entering second-half injury time of, yet still managed to dig out an equalizer and score again in added extra time to punch through to the semi-finals. The 2-1 victory over Mali in the quarters is only the second win in tourney five matches for the hosts.


Ivorian interim trainer Emerse Faé took over for the sacked Jean-Louis Gasset after the country's disappointing group phase. Faé kept Bayer 04 Leverkusen defender Odilon Kossounou - who had not played a single minute under Gasset - in his starting XI for the second straight match. The other Ivorian Bundesliga representative who saw his firs minutes under Faé, striker Sebastien Haller of Borussia Dortmund, again began the game on the bench and was utilized as a sub.

Malian national team trainer Erik Chelle also presided over a roster that featured two German club representatives. Both started in the firth tournament fixture for "Les Aigles". RB Leipzig's Amadou Haidara maintained his place in the starting XI. Recently loaned out TSG 1899 Hofffenheim professional Diadie Samassekou - who earned a stint in La Liga thanks to his encouraging performances for country - took the place of Mohamed Kamara, who unfortunately had to pass due to illness. Kamara was a key player for Les "Aigles" in the previous win. 

Leverkusen's Kossounou turned in a nightmare match, nearly conceding a penalty and earning a booking in 8th minute with a clumsy challenge and a handball. The penalty was waved off due to an offside position in the Malian build-up. Kossounou did end up conceding a penalty on a foul in the 16th minute. Luckily for both the center back and his country, Mali's Adama Traoré failed to convert from the spot. Kossounou was sent off on double yellows in the 43rd for fouling the very same player, Malian striker Lassine Sinayoko.

Haller entered for shorthanded Cote d'Ivoire at the break and quickly began to accrue meaningful offensive touches. At the other end, Haidara forced a fine save out of Ivorian keeper Yahia Fofana six minutes after the restart. Some nine minutes after Haidara was subbed off in the 62nd, Mali finally found their opening goal. Samassekou earned an assist credit on the 71st minute 1-0, but credit for the tally really belonged almost exclusively to RB Salzburg prospect Dorgeles Nene. The 21-year-old fired home a scorcher from 30 meters out.

Cote d'Ivoire threw everything forward in search of an equalizer. After generating some quality chances, a rather fluky play in the 90th saw them get one. The just-subbed on Simon Adingra of Brighton & Hove Albion knocked a ball deflected onto his feet into the back of the net. With the man-advantage, Mali kept possession and looked more likely to score in extra time. The Ivorians, meanwhile, made the most of their set-plays. There were several artistic attempts off dead balls.


One such free-kick at 120+2 enabled Faé's men to avoid a shootout. Oumar Diakité polished off a Seko Fofana service with a cheeky back heel. Malian frustration ran so high that Hamari Traoré was sent off on a straight red for kicking the ball away from the ref in a rage. Goal-scorer Diakité himself was sent off thanks to the fact that he earned his second yellow for removing his shirt in celebration of the goal.

Both Haidara and Samesskou will feel gutted at the loss after having played an excellent match. Kossounou's Iovorian colleague Haller also looked sharp and fit in just about every aspect of his game. Haller remained the only Bundesliga professional left on the pitch after the full-time whistle. Samessekou exited in the 102nd.



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