Zaha sends Ivory Coast through to quarterfinals

Ivory Coast's forward Wilfried Zaha (L) fights for the ball with Mali's defender Hamari Traore during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations at the Suez Stadium in the north-eastern Egyptian city on July 8, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 09 July 2019

Zaha sends Ivory Coast through to quarterfinals

  • Crystal Palace winger Zaha ensured the Ivorians remained unbeaten against Mali at the tournament

SUEZ: Wilfried Zaha grabbed the only goal to settle a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations last-16 clash as Ivory Coast beat Mali 1-0 in Suez on Monday.

Crystal Palace winger Zaha ensured the Ivorians remained unbeaten against Mali at the tournament as he squeezed home on 76 minutes to book a quarterfinal showdown with Algeria.

However, the 2015 champions will need to perform much better if they aspire to a second title in four years as Ivory Coast’s talented attack of Zaha, Nicolas Pepe and Jonathan Kodjia largely failed to fire.

The in-demand Pepe returned for the Elephants after sitting out the 4-1 win over Namibia along with Kodjia, while Mali recalled a host of regulars having rested key players after qualifying from their group with a game to spare.

Mali advanced as joint top scorers in the group stage with six goals alongside Algeria and had the Ivorians in trouble early here, although Lassana Coulibaly lost his footing after Moussa Marega attempted to square.

Sylvain Gbohouo had a lucky escape when he flapped at a corner with Abdoulay Diaby stabbing over before the Ivory Coast goalkeeper tipped behind his curling free-kick.

Mali were seeking a first victory over their fellow west Africans at the Cup of Nations after three losses and a draw, but Southampton recruit Moussa Djenepo stumbled as he bore in on goal at start of the second half.

Kodjia was denied at the other end as Djigui Diarra turned the Aston Villa forward’s shot wide with his legs and an ineffective Pepe was withdrawn on 68 minutes.

Zaha made the breakthrough with a quarter of an hour remaining when Gbohouo’s hopeful ball upfield skipped all the way through to the Arsenal target who snuck the ball past Diarra. Adama Traore created a late chance as Mali sought to send the game to extra time but his stinging drive was kept out by Gbohouo.

Champion Marquez begins 2020 build-up in Japan

Repsol Honda Team rider Marc Marquez of Spain takes a corner during the second free practice session at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Motegi, Tochigi prefecture on October 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 30 min 37 sec ago

Champion Marquez begins 2020 build-up in Japan

  • Behind Marquez all riders down to Quartararo are still in with a chance of the runners up position for the 2019 season

MOTEG, JAPAN: With his sixth MotoGP world title already secured, Marc Marquez will head into this weekend’s Japanese race already planning for next season where he will aim to close in on Giacomo Agostini’s all-time record of eight elite level championships.
Spain’s Marquez claimed his sixth MotoGP crown in seven seasons last time out in Thailand, with four races to spare, and eighth overall.
A race victory on Sunday would be his 10th of the season but the 26-year-old Honda rider is already thinking of next year where another title would take him level with Valentino Rossi, who won the last of his seven world championships in 2009, one back from Agostini, whose record eighth came in 1975.
“The target now is to win the ‘Triple Crown,’” said Marquez. “The constructors championship is there but the team championship will be difficult, we’ll never give up. 2020 starts in Motegi.”
His focus on next year comes as a consequence of the pressure being applied by fast-improving French rookie Fabio Quartararo.
The Yamaha rider has suffered two narrow defeats to the world champion in recent races with victory only decided on the closing laps.
“I didn’t expect this guy,” Marqeuz said of Quartararo. “He will be a very tough contender next year for the championship.”
The 20-year-old Frenchman has had four pole positions and five podium slots so far.
“I really like this track,” Quartararo said on Thursday on the Twin Ring Motegi track which is 86 miles away from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.
“The objective at the beginning of the year was to take the ‘Rookie of the year’ title, but I’m not focussing on that any more.”
Quartararo’s rookie season has seen the Petronas Yamaha rider climb to seventh in the rankings, and in the second half of the season he has emerged as Marquez’s biggest rival.
Behind Marquez all riders down to Quartararo are still in with a chance of the runners up position for the 2019 season.
However, Ducati’s 33-year-old Andrea Dovizioso, who won in Japan in 2017, can seal second place on Sunday.
“I’m expecting to deliver a big performance, it’s a stop-start kind of course with fast acceleration key and our machine likes that even if some of the bends suit other bikes,” said Dovizioso, who was 125cc champion back in 2004 but never yet won the title in the top category.
The season wraps up with a 21st race at Valencia in mid-November after visits to Australia and Malaysia.