10 mins: VAR takes its time to mull this one over … it definitely hit Odilon Kossounou on the arm as a shot was taken following a corner breaking down. Meanwhile, Niakate is down injured and might need a stretcher, as the decision-makers continue to ponder.
8 mins: Mali demand a penalty from the resulting corner and, with play now finally stopped, maybe VAR will take a look. Handball? Surely not. Mali manager Éric Chelle was convinced of it.
7 mins: Kessie is penalised for a trip and Mali have a good chance to send a ball into the box here …
Fofana is tested by another fiercely-hit cross from the left and he can only parry it out for a corner. Not the greatest piece of handling.
5 mins: There’s little time for either side to rest in possession, but Mali are showing the greater composure now with Haidara seeing plenty of it.
3 mins: A Mali break down the left brings about a skirmish in the Ivory Coast box, with goalkeeper Yahia Fofana bravely gathering a cutback and potentially injuring himself in the process.
2 mins: Some early impetus from Ivory Coast, with Nicolas Pepe heavily involved on the right flank in the opening stages. The tackles are flying in already!
Here we go!
Time for the anthems! No shortage of passion, especially from the hosts’ supporters.
Just 15 minutes until kick-off now and it’s safe to say the atmosphere is building in Bouaké. A nation holds its breath.
My thoughts and prayers are with Scott Murray trying to keep up with all the goals on today’s clockwatch. Isn’t football just brilliant?
Just a reminder that Nigeria and DR Congo are the two sides to have secured their semi-final spots so far. The winner of this tie and either Cape Verde or South Africa will join them in what ought to be a fun-filled final four.
Nigeria are the clear favourites, but this Afcon – and the current shock-a-minute Asian Cup – has proven that pretty much anything can happen in knockout tournament football.
Want my own personal take? Well, I think the winner of this game could well win the entire thing. There you go.
Some excellent pre-match reading on Ivory Coast’s madcap Afcon campaign right here. Soak it all in.
There’s good news and bad news in the Mali midfield. RB Leipzig’s Amadou Haidara is fit enough to start, despite pre-match injury fears after he took a bash in the last-16 victory over Burkina Faso. Tottenham star Yves Bissouma is still not considered fit enough to start though.
Sébastien Haller is only fit enough for the Ivory Coast bench and so too is Ibrahim Sangaré.
It’s that battle between Haidara and Franck Kessie that really intrigues today. They’re both integral to their sides, making things tick in the middle of the pitch.
Mali: D. Diarra, H.Traoré, Haidara, Kouyaté, Niakate, Samasseskou, Couliabaly, Sacko, A.Traoré, Sinayoko, Doumbia
Subs: Diawara, M.Doumbia, Sissoko, Bissouma, M. Diarra, Fofana, Niakate, Diabate, Koita, Dieng, B.Traore, Dorgeles
Ivory Coast: Y.Fofana, Aurier, Ndicka, Seri, Konan, S.Fofana, Kessie, Gradel, Kossounou, Kouamé, Pepe
Subs: Singo, Bamba, Konate, Boly, Boga, Diakite, Sangaré, Haller, Sangare, Adringra, Diallo, Amani
Hello and welcome to our coverage of the third Afcon quarter-final. And it’s an absolutely doozy; hosts Ivory Coast – fresh from their penalty shootout win over defending champions Senegal – face the impressive Mali. The Eagles edged past Burkina Faso in the last-16 to earn this tie, for which many make them favourites, with RB Leipzig’s Amadou Haidara surely crucial to their hopes this evening.
Ivory Coast have been far from perfect at their home tournament, they’re not the vintage side they were a decade or so ago, but they have momentum from that Senegal victory and the support of a nation – with close to 40,000 to pack out the Stade de la Paix in Bouaké. They call it the Peace Stadium, but it should be anything but quiet this evening.
Kick-off is 5pm GMT, so stick with us. Really looking forward to this one.