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Feb 7, 2012

Keita: Pressure is all on Ivory Coast

Mali captain Seydou Keita believes he and his team-mates have "nothing to lose" as they prepare to face Ivory Coast in the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup.

Francois Zahoui's Elephants were heavy pre-tournament favourites and have not disappointed so far, winning all four games and not yet conceding a goal at the finals.

Mali, meanwhile, suffered a group stage defeat to Ghana but qualified as runners-up to the Black Stars before going on to beat co-hosts Gabon on penalties in the last eight.

The odds appear to be stacked in Ivory Coast's favour and Barcelona midfielder Keita, who scored the winning goal in his side's quarter-final shootout victory, thinks that the pressure is firmly on the Eagles' opponents.

"We are not Barcelona or Brazil. We have our qualities and our faults; it's not going to be easy against Ivory Coast," Keita said.

"But [against Gabon] you saw again that even when the going gets tough we can do what other teams can't. Ivory Coast are favourites - they know the pressure is on them.

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

Keita originally retired from international football after Mali's dismal showing at the 2010 African Nations Cup, but returned partway through qualifying for the 2012 tournament and has not looked back.

"I'm very proud to wear this shirt," Keita said. "When I scored the penalty [against Gabon] 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 kid."

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