Ivorian AFCON quarter-final hero Oumar Diakite has expressed hope his team can reach the final of the tournament despite his absence following the red card he received after going ecstatic in their 2-1 win over Mali.
Diakite was given his marching orders after removing his shirt in wild celebrations after grabbing a last gasp winner for the hosts on Saturday at the Stade de la Paix de Bouaké.
The substitute scored a sensational 121st minute backheel to seal a dramatic 2-1 comeback victory for Cote d’Ivoire over Mali in extra time.
Despite his sending off ruling him out of the semi-final, an elated Diakite declared his belief the Elephants still have the quality to make it to the final without him.
After the match, an ecstatic Diakite declared his belief that Cote d’Ivoire can now go all the way and lift the AFCON trophy on home soil.
“After this kind of match, there are no real things to explain, it is just emotions,” said Diakite, who plays for French Ligue 1 outfit Reims.
“My joy was so great that I forgot that I had a yellow card. It was a mistake on my part. Even if I am not there, we can do the job (reach the final).”
Diakite came off the bench to score the winner after Mali had taken the lead and Cote d’Ivoire were reduced to 10 men when defender Odilon Kossounou was sent off in the first half.
Mali had taken a 1-0 lead through Nene Dorgeles before fellow substitute Simon Adingra equalized late to send the quarterfinal to extra time. Then with penalties looming, Diakite remarkably backheeled in a teammate’s cross in the 121st minute.
In the excitement of scoring, the Reims forward forgot he was already on a yellow card and wildly took his shirt off, earning a second caution and sending off. But his winner had already booked Cote d’Ivoire’s place in the semis.
“With this goal, I think I put happiness on the faces of every Ivorian fan at the stadium. No words can describe how I’m feeling now, but I’m happy,” he said.
“We knew it was going to be a complicated match, but we made it difficult for ourselves. Our mentality played a key role in this triumph.”
The emotional victory highlighted Cote d’Ivoire’s determination and spirit, factors which Diakite believes can power them to the final, even without him.
Cote d’Ivoire will face DR Congo in the semi-finals on Wednesday as they look to capture a third AFCON title on home soil.