Not many of us know many professional footballers from Mali, as most of us are expecting Ivory Coast and Ghana to win the African Nations cup, however what can we expect from Mali?
Mali haven’t really shone at the African cup of nations in the last few years, the last two tournaments in 2008 and 2010 they went out in round one, but they have finished 4th 3 times, in 2002,2004 and 1994, and they even finished 2nd in 1972. However although the last few years they haven’t exactly done fantastically there are reasons why they can be optimistic!
In the 2010 tournament,Mali came from 4-0 to draw 4-4 against Angola with only 11 minutes left in the game, that was an astonishing game and if you want to see it again log on to youtube, you won’t be disappointed. This game proves that the Mali team had spirit 2 years ago and hopefully that will make them feel confident, as they could use this as a motivator.
Another aspect is that there are fewer “bigger teams” From my point of view they are fourth behind Ghana,Ivory Coast and Senegal respectively.Mali will see this as a chance to get into the semi final and with a bit of luck in two games they could easily win the tournament.
Although they are the 4th on my list of who to win the tournament, not many players are well known to us unless you have a particular interest in French Football. Seydou Keita, their instrumental captain will be vital if they are to go really far in the tournament and they will need to use him as a motivator and as a fantastic player. To be able to play 26 games so far this season for Barcelona in midfield speaks volumes, because of the strength in depth Barca have in that particular position and,Mali, will hopefully use their inspirational captain well and he can add a trophy to his 63 caps.
My predictions for the group fixtures:
Mali 3-1 Guinea
Ghana 4-2 Mali
Botswana 1-2 Mali
The one thing they are missing from their last tournament is Freddy Kenoute , and their talisman will be missed, however life moves on and they need to find the next “Freddy” if they are to contribute to African Cup over the next 10 years.
Luckily for Mali though, they will be missingSouth Africa,Nigeria,Cameroon and Egypt. Those heavyweights will only be able to watch the tournament and not participate in them.
Mali have a reasonably young squad and if they go far in this tournament then they can build on that and hopefully qualify for the first ever World Cup