After all those years of star-laden teams never quite putting it together, Hervé Renard's Ivory Coast team may be on to something at long last. They eliminated the trendy favorites Algeria in the quarterfinals, and yesterday defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex-Zaire, or if you are old enough, the Belgian Congo) by the same 3-1 score to reach the final.
Eric Bailly played the entire game as part of the Elephants' back three; he gave away a penalty for handball (though I have read it was a harsh call) but after that seemed to settle down. He could have had an assist, and did make one key saving tackle. Evidently he is physically fine.
They will face the winner of the Ghana-Equatorial Guinea match, which is being played today. The host nation has been something of a feel-good story (how many international squads do you know with players who ply their trade in the Andorra and Gibraltar??) though their quarterfinal success over Tunisia was highly questionable, a last-minute penalty equalizing the scores before Equatorial Guinea scored an extra-time winner. The referee has now been banned for six months for "poor performance".
And yes, ex-Villarreal, ex-Espanyol, ex-Elche man Wakaso Mubarak (currently on loan to Celtic) is in the Ghana side. Part of the Bailly deal was us agreeing to let Espanyol off the hook for €700k they owed us when they sold him on.