SUEZ, Egypt (AFP) – Wilfried Zaha grabbed the only goal to settle a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations last-16 clash as Ivory Coast beat Mali 1-0 in Suez early yesterday.
Crystal Palace winger Zaha ensured the Ivorians remained unbeaten against Mali at the tournament as he squeezed home on 76 minutes to book a quarter-final showdown with Algeria.
However, the 2015 champions will need to perform much better if they aspire to a second title in four years as Ivory Coast’s talented attack of Zaha, Nicolas Pepe and Jonathan Kodjia largely failed to fire.
“We’re going to enjoy our victory, it wasn’t easy against a good Mali team,” said Ivory Coast boss Ibrahim Kamara.
“We had a pretty difficult first half where we couldn’t get it going. We let the storm pass and were able to make the most of our key moments.”
The in-demand Pepe returned for the Elephants after sitting out the 4-1 win over Namibia along with Kodjia, while Mali recalled a host of regulars having rested key players after qualifying from their group with a game to spare.
Mali advanced as joint top scorers in the group stage with six goals alongside Algeria and had the Ivorians in trouble early, although Lassana Coulibaly lost his footing after Moussa Marega attempted to square.
Sylvain Gbohouo had a lucky escape when he flapped at a corner with Abdoulay Diaby stabbing over before the Ivory Coast goalkeeper tipped behind his curling free-kick.