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'Serene' Ivory Coast respect Mali - Zahoui

07 Feb 2012 18:16:45

'Serene' Ivory Coast respect Mali - Zahoui

No arrogance but a spirit of serenity, that was how Ivory Coast coach Francois Zahoui summed up the mood in his team on the eve of Wednesday's semi-final with Mali.

The Elephants turned up at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations yet again as favourites, and after a four game unbeaten run Zahoui's men are now two wins away from winning a title they last claimed 20 years ago.

Steady rather than spectacular, the Ivorians have been wary of the over confidence that contributed to them returning empty handed from the Nations Cups in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

"We have not come here with pride but humility, with the wish to please the Ivory coast people," Zahoui told a press conference here Tuesday.

"There's no arrogance, but a spirit of serenity. We know we are also ambassadors for our country, the players are proud to wear the national colours.

"They're not here for the money, but to win the Cup for the Ivory Coast.

"We are all conscious of the weight of responsibility on our shoulders.

"We are taking every match seriously, treating every rival with respect."

That includes Mali, who go into this last four clash as overwhelming underdogs having beaten the Ivorians just once in 21 meetings.

But Zahoui like his Mali counterpart Alain Giresse earlier dismissed the statistics as having little bearing on the outcome of this encounter between the two countries.

He said: "We have to be careful, Mali are a team with nothing to lose.

"Okay Ivory Coast have beaten them in the past, Mali say, but look at what happened when we came up against a team with nothing to lose.

"On Saturday in our quarter-final against Equatorial Guinea we came close to disaster in the first half, My side contained a lot of nervous players."

In that last eight tie Didier Drogba overcame a missed penalty to score twice in the Elephants' 3-0 win which put them into their ninth Nations Cup semi-final.

"When the whistle goes tomorrow there are no statistics, the only result is on the field, we remain focused, we respect Mali very much and we know what awaits us tomorrow."

He reported that Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou was fine after his injury scare in the 2-0 first round win over Burkina Faso - the Chelsea star showed no ill effects when coming off the bench against Equatorial Guinea.

He also expressed hope that keeper Boubacar Barry would be passed fit to contest Wednesday's evening kick-off at the L'Amitie Stadium.

"He's a major player for the team, we're praying to God that he will be able to play. He's a major player for us, the news though is good about him, if not excellent. The doctors are striving for him to compete."


AFP

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