Giresse dismisses Gabon revenge notion

Mali coach Alain Giresse rejected out of hand the notion that revenge had been his motivation in plotting Gabon's demise in Sunday's CAF Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final.

The Frenchman managed Gabon at the last Nations Cup in 2010, only to be abruptly replaced afterwards by his former team-mate at Bordeaux, Gernot Rohr.

Giresse, speaking at the post match press conference after shaking Rohr's hand, said: "Revenge? I don't function like that, anyone who says I was motivated by revenge doesn't know me.

"My only concern was preparing my Mali team, to help them achieve their objectives. My only pleasure is to see my team go through to the semi-finals."

The Eagles denied the co-hosts a first ever semi-final ticket in a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory after 120 minutes of play had left the two sides locked together at 1-1.

Mali now face competition favourites Côte d'Ivoire in Wednesday's semi-final back at Libreville's L'Amitie Stadium.

Keita quitely confident
And looking ahead to that showdown Mali's Barcelona veteran Seydou Keita, scorer of the winning penalty, said: "We are not Barcelona or Brazil, we have our qualities and our faults, it's not going to be easy against Côte d'Ivoire.

"But today you saw again that even when the going gets tough we can do what other teams can't. Côte d'Ivoire are favourites, they know the pressure is on them.

"In contrast, we have nothing to lose, we'll do our maximum to go even further in this competition."

Keita is revelling in being back in the thick of the international action after a 20-month absence when he turned his back on the national team after a series of clashes with officials over conditions. "I'm very proud to wear this shirt," said the 32-year-old.

"When I scored the penalty today it was like a dream. I've won a lot with Barcelona but this is like winning a cup.

"I've always loved my country, and I was urged to come back by the president and even my mother did her maximum to persuade me to return. When Mali win it's a completely different feeling, I feel like a 'gamin' (kid)."

Keita sent Mali marching on to the last four when converting the decisive spot kick after Gabon's top striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang watched in disbelief as Mali keeper Soumaila Diakite dived left to save his effort.

Gabon had taken a 55th minute lead when Aubameyang raced onto a high ball from the left, his back pass across the box falling to Eric Mouloungui to slam past Diakite.

With six minutes left second half substitute Cheick Diabate levelled to send the match into extra time and eventually spot kicks.