By Amakye Ansah
#16. Mali 🇲🇱
Nickname: The Eagles
Last Appearance: 2019
Coach: Mohamed Magassouba (Mali)
Best AFCON Results: Runner-up (1972)
Skipper: Hamari Traore
Player to watch: Yves Bissouma
CAF Rankings: 9
FIFA Rankings: 53
The Eagles are in blistering form. Won 5 games in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers and drew just 1. They lost only 1 game in the AFCON 2021 qualifiers, won 4 and drew 1.
Mohamed Magassouba deserves special praise for making Mali a wonderful team.
He has enough quality players enjoying themselves in the top leagues in Europe.
Brighton’s Yves Bissouma was recalled to The Eagles after a 3-year absence. Salzburg midfielder Mohamed Camara, Al Ahly midfielder Aliou Dieng, Amadou Haidara of RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim midfielder Diadie Samassekou are all included in the team. Southampton forward Mousa Djenepo and Sarpsborg 08 forward Ibrahima Kone are all included also.
After the days of Mahamadou Diara, Seydou Keita, Mohamed Sissoko and Frederick Kanoute, Mali has struggled for world-class players but this generation can do the unthinkable.
Their strength will undeniably be their midfield. They have a young, powerful and energetic midfielders. The Eagles halcyon days in the AFCON was in Cameroon 1972 when they lost 3-2 in the finals against Congo. Will the land of Cameroon be nice to them again?
Expectations will be high considering the quality and the abundance of talent they have. Mali topped their group in 2019 AFCON in Egypt and lost to Wilfred Zaha’s 76th-minute strike in the round of 16 against Ivory Coast.
The Eagles must go far in Cameroon. Mali will be the dark horse in Cameroon and they will be a difficult nut to crack. In a group with The Gambia, Mauritania and Tunisia, the Eagles will qualify for the knockout stage.
The core of the team
TP Mazembe goalkeeper Ibrahima Mounkoro will get the nod at the expense of Malmo FF keeper Ismael Diawara. Mounkoro started 5 of Mali’s six games in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
29-year-old Renne’s right-back Hamari Traore is the man to lead Mali’s back four alongside Nantes left-back Charles Traore.
Yves Bissouma, Aliou Dieng, Mohamed Camara, Diadie Samassekou and Amadou Haidara are all capable of challenging any midfield in the AFCON.
Moussa Djenepo and Ibrahima Kone will spearhead The Eagles attack.
Ibrahim Mounkoro (GK)
Hamari Traore, Charles Traore, Falaye Sacko, Kiki Kouyate (DF)
Yves Bissouma, Mohamed Camara,
Moussa Djenepo, Amadou Haidara, Adama “Malouda” Traore (AMF)
Ibrahima Kone (ST)
Expectations: Quarter Finals