Mali vs Mauritania
New Suez Stadium, Suez
Monday, 24-06-2019 @11pm
SUEZ – Mali and Mauritania will square off in their Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) opener at the Suez Stadium on Monday night.
The two nations have it all to do if they are to make it out of the group E as the other two occupants Tunisia and Angola seem to be better on paper.
Mali would be out-right favourites for the game but have had several issues in the build-up to the tournament and it remains to be seen, which frame of mind the players are in, come game time.
The Eagles had FUFA threaten to ban their country from the Cup of Nations over squabbling among officials.
Their head coach Mohamed Magassouba then took four days longer than any of the other 23 coaches to name his squad, without offering an explanation.
Such a chaotic build-up to any major tournament can easily destroy the mood of the camp and it is something that Mali will be hoping to overcome as soon as possible.
The other concern for Mali coming into the game has been their defensive issues.
Mali went down 3-2 to Algeria in a recent friendly, the third match in a row for the Eagles highlighting a need to tighten up on defence after conceding three other goals against Senegal and Cameroon.
Mali made it through to consecutive semi-finals in 2012 and 2013 but have failed to progress out of the group stage since and they have not won a match during the last two editions of the tournament.
They qualified with ease from a group containing Burundi, Gabon and South Sudan; they didn’t lose a game and only conceded twice during the campaign.
Although there is not a vast amount of international experience in the squad with only three of the outfield players possessing in excess of 20 caps, Mali have a number of excellent talents plying their trade in Europe with Amadou Haidara and Moussa Marega amongst them. Marega had an excellent UEFA Champions League campaign for Porto with six goals in the competition.
Mauritania are making their first-ever appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations after finishing second in their qualifying group ahead of 2017 semi-finalists Burkina Faso.
They won all three of their home matches in qualifying but lost twice away from home which included a 4-1 defeat against Angola.
Pleased to just have qualified for the tournament, their expectations are low and any positive results they gain will be a bonus.
Mauritania are also coming off the back of a loss having suffered a 3-1 defeat to Benin in Marrakech.
Lions of Chinguetti did, however, clinch a 3-1 win over Madagascar in their previous warm-up match.
Other games on Tuesday
-Ivory Coast vs South Africa
-Tunisia vs Angola @8pm