Mali and Ivory Coast meet in the round of 16 in the African Cup of Nations, kicking off on Monday at 6:00pm local time in Suez, Egypt. Mali won group E, whilst Ivory Coast were runners-up in Group D, the latter are considered slight favourites here.

Mali

Mali were ranked as one of the possible outsiders to win this competition prior to the tournament, but in a difficult group containing Angola and Tunisia, they managed to finish top with 7 points. On match day one, they opened their tournament by beating minnows Mauritiana with a 4-1 thumping, with the lighting quick Adama Traore getting two goals. In the key clash in the group against Tunisia, they relinquished their lead to draw 1-1, but also can be satisfied that they booked their place in the 2nd round with that point obtained.

Finally, they beat Angola 1-0 to wrap up the group, as Haidara scored a stunning strike from outside the box. Mali also boast powerful Porto striker Moussa Marega, who has one goal to his tally, but would ideally like to add more as he is considered one of the dark horses to be the golden boot winner. Do Mali have enough to beat Ivory Coast?

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Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast’s golden generation has surpassed as the days of Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Gervinho are long gone. Some will argue that they under-achieved during that time period in the World Cup, but they still managed to win the African Cup of Nations in 2015 and were regarded as the best African team in the world in the last decade. However, now, despite having some strong players in certain positions, they don’t pose the same threat as they once did.

They are currently listed as the 5th favourites to win this tournament, and that is deservedly so as they couldn’t even finish first in their group, as they lost to Morocco on match day two. Aside from that defeat, they did manage to get a narrow victory over South Africa, before beating Namibia 4-1 this past Monday to secure their progression. During that 4-1 victory, we saw the best of Maxwell Cornet of Lyon, Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace and Max-Alain Gradel of Toulouse as they all got on the score sheet. Can they kick on from that performance and go one step further in this competition?

Head to Head

This will be the 31st meeting between the two sides in their history, with Ivory Coast dominating the past with 18 wins, compared to Mali who have only three successes. What makes worse reading for Mali fans is that all those wins came pre-1983, taking their current streak to 23 games without a win against the Ivoirians. Despite not winning, Mali have held Ivory Coast to a few draws in more recent meetings, such as a 1-1 draw in the group stage at the 2015 African Cup of Nations, and also in their 2018 World Cup qualification group.

The biggest clash between these two sides was back in 2012, when they met in the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations, which saw Ivory Coast win 1-0 – Gervinho getting the solitary goal. Ivory Coast also enjoyed success against Mali at the 1997 and 2008 African Cup of Nations. Can Mali turn the tide?

Predictions and Betting Tips

Mali are at 13/5 to get a famous victory with Ivory Coast priced at 23/20. For the sides to draw, and therefore take it to extra time, that is at 2/1. To qualify outright for the quarter finals, Mali are at 7/4, with Ivory Coast at 2/5. Despite being favourites, I’d be tempted to back Mali here given the value. They have impressed in their opening three matches, and have some really dangerous players that can provide Ivory Coast some difficult questions they may not be able to answer. I’m going to stick my neck out, and back Mali to win this match 2-1, at a generous 12/1.

For goal scorers, I’d back Moussa Marega of Mali, and Maxwel Cornet of Ivory Coast to both score in the game, at 9/1. If you want to back the favourites, then to increase your earnings, you can back them to win by a 1-goal margin at 5/2, win to nil at 21/10 or to win after extra time or penalties at 9/1.

Finally, both teams scored 4 goals in their previous match, and you’ll be rewarded greatly if either were to achieve that again, with Ivory Coast at 22/1 to score 4+ goals, and Mali at 66/1.

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