Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast reacts during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group G match between North Korea and Ivory Coast. Cote D'Ivoire plays Mali in the Africa Cup of Nations on February 8, 2012. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Cote D'Ivoire face their biggest test thus far in the Africa Cup of Nations when they play Mali on Wednesday.
Though they weren't handed the toughest draw, Cote D'Ivoire have been dominant thus far in the Africa Cup of Nations. Four games, four wins, four clean sheets. Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Solomon Kalou have been dominant, and so much so that their defense has hardly been tested. There were questions about their defense and the tactical acumen of coach Francois Zahoui coming into the tournament, but neither has been tested. On Tuesday, Mali should give them their biggest test yet.
This Mali side is a relatively inexperienced one compared to their recent Africa Cup of Nations side, but they do have one key veteran in Seydou Keita of Barcelona. Though normally a box-to-box or defensive midfield player at club level, Keita is the centerpiece of the attack for his country and is performing that role well once again.
Keita and the solid midfield around him will make life tough on the Ivory Coast, but Mali have lacked firepower without Frederic Kanoute. If Les Elephants score early, it could be lights out. Though Mali is the best team that Cote D'Ivoire has faced thus far, they struggled against Ghana and Gabon. They are very much underdogs.
Kickoff is at 2:00 p.m. ET, 8:00 p.m. local time from Libreville, Gabon.