Mali and Ivory Coast battled in the first knockout stage of Africa Cup of Nations for a place in the quarter finals. Mali finished 1st in Group E with 7 points but that was not enough to get an easier opponent and faced the second placed team in Group D which was Ivory Coast.

A hard battle between two good teams, with such tactics in the game and only one goal. That from Zaha that secured Ivory Coast’s place in the quarterfinals of the tournament. In this tactical analysis, we will check the tactics of the coaches and how they prepared their teams in the game and we will also do an analysis of the statistics of both sides.

Line ups

The coach of Mali, Mohamed Magassouba, decided to rest some of his players in the last match against Angola and made seven changes. But if we check the previous game against Tunisia we would notice that the line up is the same. He chose 4-1-4-1 tactics because that suits his team and knew that Ivory Coast has a strong midfield.

From the other side, Ivory Coast’s coach, Ibrahim Kamara made only two changes from the last fixture against Namimbia with Pepe and Kodjia taking the positions of Gradel and Bony. As for the tactics? The classic 4-3-3 tactics but that time was based in the defence.

Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Mali vs Ivory Coast – tactical analysis

High press from Mali in the first half

Mali’s players had the instructions to press high in the opponent’s defence and make them do mistakes. Something that happened in many cases with Ivory Coast’s players shooting the ball outside of the field or giving it to their opponents. This happened mostly in the first half where Ivory Coast’s plan was to play defensively and keep the clean sheet and Mali had sometimes more than five players in the opponent’s pitch and after the midfield.

Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Mali vs Ivory Coast – tactical analysis
Seven of Mali’s players are pressing high and I.Traore forced to make a long ball.
Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Mali vs Ivory Coast – tactical analysis
Six players of Mali press again high and make difficult the movement of the ball. At that moment, Die managed to pass the ball the last time before his opponent stole it.

Full defence from Ivory Coast

As we said before, the plan of Ivory Coast was to keep the clean sheet in the first half. Ibrahim Kamara instructed his players to be more defensive and don’t take so many risks because he didn’t want to give any space in the dangerous team of Mali.

Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Mali vs Ivory Coast – tactical analysis
Nine players are behind the ball and try to defend, the lines are a close one to the other and only Kodjia is in front of them.
Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Mali vs Ivory Coast – tactical analysis
Ivory Coast players are close to their opponents. They seem to like that every player had the instruction to mark an opponent or be close to him. Again, only Kodjia is in his position and doesn’t take part in his team’s defence.

Mali’s offensive tactics

The defensive style of Ivory Coast in the first half made the life of Mali’s players difficult. It was hard for them to build the game from the defence because when the ball was coming to the midfielders, then two opponent players were marking them and it was dangerous to lose the ball and gave the chance to Ivory Coast for a counter attack.

That’s why Mali tried to pass the ball in the wingers and create dangerous situations in the opponent’s box from there. Mali made a few chances from inside the box cause of Ivory Coast’s two defensive lines.

Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Mali vs Cote d’Ivoire – tactical analysis
Marega took the ball outside of the box and made space for his teammate.

Sometimes, Mali tried to break the opponent’s defence with long balls because they are good and strong in the aerial duels, as you can see in the image above.

Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Mali vs Ivory Coast – tactical analysis
Mali made a few long balls towards A.Haidara and Marega.

Ivory Coast’s offensive tactics in the second half

Ivory Coast didn’t manage to make any good chance in the first half because of the defensive style of play the coach chose. But in the second half, the roles of the two teams were extremely different. Ivory Coast took the possession, control the rhythm and manage to make some dangerous situations in the box and made Mali’s players to play defensive.

Ibrahim Kamara asked Pepe to take some efforts and go one vs one with his personal opponent, also as asked to Zaha. Ivory Coast won some corner kicks and some free kicks and made some chances and also the crosses of the two wingers we said before, were dangerous and Mali’s defence had many problems. They were also defending with six or seven players.

Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Mali vs Ivory Coast – tactical analysis
Pepe is going one vs one and trying to dribble his opponent.
Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Mali vs Ivory Coast – tactical analysis
Ivory Coast’s counter-attack with seven players trying to take a position in the opponent’s box.

But the goal for Ivory Coast came from a long ball from the defence, Kodjia created the assist with his head and Zaha took advantage of the space that Mali’s defense had and scored from the box.

Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Mali vs Cote d’Ivoire – tactical analysis
Kodjia is providing the assist to Zaha who finishes brilliantly from the box for the winning goal.

Mali’s “panic tactics” after Ivory Coast’s goal

Wilfred Zaha scored the winner in the 76th minute and after that Ivory Coast come back to defend and keep the score. Mali had to react and attack to find an equaliser because in another way they would eliminate.

But the style that the players were trying to attack was unorthodox and you could see the panic in their moves. The one mistake succeeded the other, many long balls and crosses to no one and Ivory Coast’s defence had an easy job. After Zaha’s goal there were no tactics. There were only “panic tactics” such as long balls to the opponents!

Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Mali vs Ivory Coast – tactical analysis
Another cross in the opponent’s box but only two Mali’s players inside that!
Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Mali vs Ivory Coast – tactical analysis
Djenepo had the ball and only one teammate is close to him to pass the ball but he is marked! The other players didn’t make a move to give him an option and Ivory Coast players stole the ball.


If we check the statistics of the match, we will notice that Mali had won in most of the categories but lost the game against Ivory Coast. Mali created 17 chances against 7 and had a 60.2% percentage of ball possession. The pass succession was also better for Mali (81% to 70%) and also the dribbles made (15-8).

Mali had also won eight corners and Ivory Coast just three but the winner side managed to win eight more aerial duels in the match! Another category of statistics that Ivory Coast won was in the interceptions with 17 to 6. Ivory Coast had also four more clearances and the saves of the goalkeepers were four to one for the winning side.


Mali had the position, the chances and the control of the rhythm in the most time of the match but was not effective. They locked up in the defensive tactics of Ivory Coast in the first half, didn’t manage to create more than two good chances and didn’t score a goal. After that, in the second half, Ivory Coast’s players kept more the ball in their feet and tried to create dangerous situations in the opponents’ box playing from the wings.

The tactics of Ivory Coast coach, Ibrahim Kamara, were perfectly designed and his team managed to win the match. Wilfred Zaha scored the winning goal in the 76th minute, after that the team defended great and kept the opponents far away from Gbohuo’s box and Ivory Coast passed in the quarterfinals of Africa Cup of Nations. In the quarterfinals, Ivory Coast will face Algeria for a place in the semifinals of the tournament.

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