In a nail-biting encounter, Ivory Coast secured a spot in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) semifinals after a thrilling 2-1 victory against Mali, sealed by Oumar Diakite’s last-gasp extra-time heroics.
Despite facing adversity with two players sent off, the hosts rode a wave of luck as goalkeeper Yahia Fofana denied Adama Traore’s spot-kick, and defender Odilon Kossounou saw red for a second yellow just before halftime.
Mali took a deserved lead 19 minutes from time, courtesy of Nene Dorgeles’s stunning 25-yard strike. However, the drama intensified as Simon Adingra, a substitute, netted an equalizer in the 90th minute, setting the stage for an epic finish.
As the game seemed destined for penalties, substitute Diakite, who received a second yellow for removing his shirt in celebration, seized the moment to secure Ivory Coast’s place in the semifinals. The dramatic turn of events triggered a furious reaction from the Mali players, with Hamari Traore also receiving a red card.
The MVP: Oumar Diakite
While Adingra played a crucial role in the comeback, 20-year-old Diakite emerged as the hero, ensuring the Elephants advanced to the last four in improbable circumstances. However, his heroic act came at a cost, as he will miss the semifinal due to a second yellow card for his exuberant celebration.
The Big Loser: Odilon Kossounou
Defender Kossounou endured a forgettable day, initially conceding a penalty and receiving a yellow card. His day went from bad to worse as he clumsily fouled Sinayoko for the second time, resulting in a red card. Kossounou will be unavailable for the semifinal.
What Comes Next?
Following their dramatic victory, Ivory Coast is set to face the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the AFCON semifinals on Wednesday in Abidjan. The highly anticipated AFCON final is scheduled for February 11. The Ivory Coast team, despite the challenges faced, now looks forward to the next chapter in their quest for continental glory.