July 20, 2024

2024 TotalEnergies AFCON: Why Mali Are Favourite Against South Africa?

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Mali has defeated South Africa in their two previous AFCON meetings.

FILE PHOTO: Bafana Bafana star in action against Liberia during the Afcon clash at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. PICTURE: Getty Images

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JOHANNESBURG: Hugo Broos and his men carry the ‘underdog tag’ heading to the all-important match.

Bafana Bafana will collide with the Eagles of Mali in their opening Total African Cup of Nations (AFCON), otherwise known as TotalEnergies AFCON, Group E match tonight at 22:00 (CAT) at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo City, Ivory Coast.

Hugo Broos and his men carry the ‘underdog tag’ heading to the all-important match for two reasons, namely a form guide and a head-to-head record. While the Malian football has been on the rise, the opposite is the case for their Tuesday opponents.

The Eagles have been a consistent feature at the AFCON, appearing in 10 out of 11 previous editions while Bafana Bafana managed five appearances, including as the hosts in 2013.

Here is all you need to know about the two nations that will square up in Group E.

FIFA rankings
Mali are 15 places above South Africa on the latest FIFA rankings. To be more precise, the Eagles are ranked 51 while Bafana Bafana are sitting on 66 in the world rankings click here see their rankings in Africa.

A Form guide
The form guide favours the Eagles who have won four out of their previous five matches in which they scored 14 goals and won twice by a 3-1 scoreline. There are goals in the Malian side. In their last preparatory match, they demolished Guinea-Bissau 6-2, with goals coming from six different players.

In contrast, Bafana Bafana are struggling for goals, having only managed one win in their previous five matches. They drew thrice and lost one.
Indeed, goals are hard to come by, as they have found the back of the net three times and conceded four times. Their scoring problem has been compounded by Burnley FC forward Lyle Foster‘s unavailability due to depression.

A Head-to-head in the AFCON
Mali has defeated South Africa in their two previous AFCON meetings, both of which were in the quarterfinals. This first happened in 2002 and then eleven years later in a penalty shootout following a 1-all draw in South Africa. In 2019, the two countries squared up in an international friendly match. South Africa emerged as the 2-1 victors.

Coaches
South Africa is coached by the veteran Belgian Hugo Broos (71), who has won the AFCON, which is the third-biggest tournament behind the FIFA World Cup and the European Championship, in 2017 with Cameroon.

Broos has the experience on his side compared to his counterpart, Eric Chelle (46), who is coaching his first national team following his appointment in 2022. Chelle does have the home ground advantage as he was born in Cote d’Ivoire, although he represented Mali as a player.

Key Players
For South Africa, Percy Tau (29) is the man to watch. The Al Ahly SC forward is among the high-rated players in Africa. He is the reigning the CAF Inter-club Player of the Year, thanks to his rich vein of form for the Red Devils. The Lion of Judah, as the former Mamelodi Sundowns player is affectionately known, will lead the lines for Bafana Bafana.

Across the line, Mali has Yves Bissouma (27), who plays as a midfielder for Tottenham Hotspur, which plies its trade in the English Premier League (EPL), one of the best leagues in Europe. For Mali, the 27-year-old plays more on the offensive and creative front. Therefore, Bissouma will marshal the Malian efforts in the tournament.

Squad compositions
A stark contrast in terms of where the two squads play, 99 per cent (26 out of 27) of Malian players ply their trade abroad, whereas the vast majority of South African players play in the local Premier Soccer League (PSL), which is one of the best leagues in Africa. In contrast, 24 out of 27 Bafana Bafana players play in South Africa.

The much anticipated match between South Africa and Mali will follow a Group E opener between Tunisia and Namibia on the same night.

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