No 'anti-Drogba' task force - Mali coach
Mali coach Alain Giresse denies he has hatched up an "anti Didier Drogba scheme" to negate the Ivory Coast star's influence on Wednesday's Africa Cup of Nations semi-final.
The Chelsea icon, one of the few truly world class players gracing the 2012 Nations Cup stage, has led the Elephants to this last four date unbeaten, scoring twice in the 3-0 quarter-final defeat of Equatorial Guinea.
Giresse, when asked how he was preparing to try and shackle the Ivorian captain, told a press conference here Tuesday: "I don't have an anti-Drogba scheme, no.....but I've got an anti-Ivory Coast scheme.
"We all know the qualities of that player, I don't need to talk about him with my team, the players know him as much as I do.
"Even if I did have an anti-Drogba plan do you think I would talk about it?"
Mali may be underdogs for the game in Libreville, but Giresse stressed fear at taking on the competition favourites had no place in his squad.
"We all know the statistics (Ivory Coast have won 14 and Mali only one of their 21 encounters), they reflect a team of real quality, a team with talent, with great potential...but that's it, stop there, I don't allow us to go into fear.
"If you start talking about a game with fear then it's not worth coming to the stadium.
"We are aware of the task ahead, but let us not introduce fear into the equation.
"I don't base my judgement on statistics, the reality is on the pitch."
Mali may not have a Drogba, but they do have a Seydou Keita, and Giresse underlined the importance the Barcelona midfielder brings to the Eagles.
"Seydou is not the captain, but he's evidently a leader. He's with us as a guide, he takes his responsibilities very seriously, even though sometimes it goes beyond his nature.
"His involvement is very strong, it's reflected in the emotions he has.
"Obviously as a coach it's important to have players like him who behave like true leaders within the squad."
Keita, who struck the decisive spot kick in Sunday's 5-4 penalty shoot-out win over co-hosts Gabon, took it easy in training on Monday, but Giresse insisted all was well with the 32-year-old veteran.
"Seydou's fine, he's got no strain or anything, sometimes fatigue catches up with him from the previous match, and he's got little problems with his ankle, but I've got to be cautious with all my players.
"We'll see tomorrow morning who is going to play."
After the exhilaration of seeing off Gabon in Sunday's extra time marathon Giresse said it had been his job to refocus his players on Wednesday's semi-final.
"We had two hours of football on Sunday, and the penalty shoot-out, so the first thing was to recover from that test. Recovery period is critical.
"Now I have to remobilise everyone, but not by saying this semi-final is a bonus, we can't lose sight of the fact that this might lead us to something different."
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