The fourth team to be looked at from the testing Group D, Mali will face Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea and Cameroon. The Eagles have a strong pedigree in the African Cup of Nations with 8 appearances in total, including six semi-finals and a solitary final appearance in 1972, losing to the People’s Republic of Congo in Cameroon. Managed by Pole Henryk Kasperczak, in his second spell in the job also has a good record in the tournament. In his last spell with Mali, he took them to a fourth place finish in the 2002 Championships on home soil, losing out to eventual champions Cameroon. He has also overseen a second place finish with Tunisia and a third place with the Cote D’Ivoire Elephants.
Runners-Up in their qualification group, their form was consistent with UK based Wolverhampton striker Bakary Sako chipping in with important goals along the way. The campaign was finished in style, inflicting Algeria’s only defeat with an accomplished 2-0 win. Captained by the classy Seydou Keita, currently with Roma nearing the end of a glittering career including spells with Barcelona, Valenica and Marseilles bringing with it two Champions League titles and three league titles amongst many others. Elsewhere the Malian squad has plenty of experience, defensively in the form of Adama Tamboura and Fousseni Diawara. The Eagles will look to Modibo Maiga, currently on loan with French Club Metz from English Premier League’s West Ham, to add to his 8 international goals.
Wether Kasperczak has the experience and nous to get Mali through to another knockout stage appearance remains to be seen. A very tough group may be a step too far for his current team, who I fear will bow out after only three games. But for the strength of their opposition, there is enough quality in the squad to command at least a Quarter-Final appearance but alas, this time I predict they will be unable to achieve this, with Cameroon and Cote D’Ivoire to make t through.