Regional bragging rights on the line as Mali face Cote d'Ivoire
Cote d’Ivoire take on Mali on Monday in a last 16 battle, that on paper, appears evenly matched. The two west African countries share 62nd place in the world rankings but both enjoyed differing fortunes on their way to the knockout stages.
Mali emerged top of Group E with two victories and a draw while the Ivorians finished Group D in second place behind Morocco following two wins.
Morocco have since departed the tournament after losing to Benin on penalties on 5 July at the Cairo International Stadium.
Ibrahim Kamara, the Cote d’Ivoire boss, said he wanted his players to take heed of that result and the subsequent shocks in the last 16.
"Nobody thought that Benin could go past Morocco," said Kamara. "The same goes for South Africa beating Egypt. So these are indeed messages sent to all the teams."
On Sunday night in Alexandria, Madagascar notched up another surprise with triumph over Democratic Republic of Congo following a penalty shoot-out.
Kamara added: “At this stage of the competition, you have to give it everything so you don't end up with regrets because there is no return leg, there is no second or third match."
Cote d’Ivoire entered the 2017 competition as defending champions and slinked home after the group stages. The 2019 version has reached the knockout phase without the same pressure.
They face a Mali eleven seeking a first victory over their neighbours at the Cup of Nations following three losses and a draw.
“We’re proud of what we did in the group stages,” said Mali defender Boubakar Kouyaté. "We came to get into the knockout stages and we’ve done that.
"Now we have to have more ambition. Everyone has come here to try and win the trophy and we’re no different.”
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