Ivory Coast caretaker coach Emerse Fae has told the Africa Cup of Nations hosts not to get caught up in the hype as they prepare for Saturday’s quarter-final against Mali.
The Elephants saw off defending champions Senegal in a penalty shootout last time out but, despite that shock win, they have effectively limped to the last eight, having lost two of their last three matches, and having scored only three goals in four matches so far.
But while Fae has preached humility to his players, he did allow himself to suggest they could yet go all the way on home soil.
“We’re definitely not going to get excited,” Fae said. “We have come so far. We are going to continue to work on our solidity.
“We need to keep this state of mind which will give us the strength to perhaps go for the title.”
While they will have home support on their side, Ivory Coast are second favourites against a Mali side who have never lost at the quarter-final stage, having got this far on five previous occasions.
But despite that proud record, Mali have never lifted the trophy. Inspired by Lassine Sinayoko, who is bidding to become the first Malian to score four goals in a single edition of AFCON since Freddy Kanoute in 2004, they could well have a chance this year.
“We need to be humble and continue with hard work,” Mali coach Eric Chelle said.
“I am very happy for the players. We know that it will be difficult against (Ivory Coast), but we will bring our quality and give it our best against them. I want to emphasize the importance of humility in this victory.”