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Africa Cup of Nations | Group Stage
Jan 16, 2024 at 8pm UK

2 - 0
South Africa

Traore (60'), Sinayoko (66')
Niakate (18'), Kouyate (43'), Coulibaly (90+4')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Mvala (58'), Xulu (77')

Preview: Mali vs. South Africa - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Mali vs. South Africa - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Africa Cup of Nations clash between Mali and South Africa, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Mali and South Africa kick off their quest for glory in the Africa Cup of Nations when they go head to head at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Both sides have been drawn in Group E of the continental showpiece and will contend with Namibia and 2004 champions Tunisia for a place in the knockout stages.

Match preview

Having enjoyed a superb qualifying campaign, Mali are set to make their 13th appearance in the Africa Cup of Nations, including a ninth on the bounce since missing out in 2006.

Only Nigeria scored more goals than Les Aigles during the qualifying phase (15) as they picked up five wins and lost just one of their six games to collect 15 points and finish as Group G winners with a five-point cushion over second-placed Gambia.

Mali journey to Ivory Coast as the nation to have played the most AFCON games (54) without ever winning the tournament, with their best finish coming in 1972, when they finished as runners-up after losing 3-2 against Congo.

The West African nation head into Monday's group opener unbeaten in each of their last seven matches across all competitions — claiming six wins and one draw since June 2023 — a run which sees them sit second in Group I or the World Cup qualifiers.

Mali turned in a performance of the highest quality in their warm-up friendly two Saturdays ago, when they cruised to a 6-2 victory over Guinea-Bissau at the Stade du 26 Mars.

Eric Chelle's men will be backing themselves to carry on with that momentum and get underway in Ivory Coast on a high as they take on a South Africa side who they have gotten the better of in their two previous AFCON meetings.

Both victories came in the quarter-finals — first in 2002 when they were beat the Bafana Bafana 2-0 at the Venue Stade Abdoulaye Nakoro Cissoko and most recently in 2013, when they claimed a 3-1 win on penalties after a 1-1 draw in extra time.

Making their 11th AFCON appearance, South Africa are returning to the tournament for the first time since 2019, having failed to secure a place in Egypt two years ago.

Hugo Broos's side reached the quarter-finals back in 2019 — their joint-best result since a third-placed finish in 2000 — before suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of West African rivals Nigeria.

The Bafana Bafana enjoyed a decent qualifying campaign as they picked up seven points from four matches to finish second in Group K, two points behind group winners Morocco and six above rock-bottom Liberia.

South Africa, who are currently 66th in the latest World Ranking, have won the AFCON title only once, which came in 1996, when they beat Tunisia 2-0 in the final as host nation.

They head into Monday's group opener on a run of just one win in their last five matches across all competitions, losing once and claiming three draws, including a goalless draw against Lesotho in their final warm-up fixture last Wednesday.

While South Africa will be looking to begin their AFCON campaign on a high, they will have to show their mettle against a Mali side who have never lost an opening game in the competition, claiming seven wins and five draws since their debut in 1972.

Mali form (all competitions):

South Africa form (all competitions):

Team News

Injury-hit Mali will have to cope without several key players, including the likes of Atalanta BC forward El Bilal Toure, Crystal Palace man Cheick Doucoure and Southampton forward Moussa Djenepo.

Doucoure has been sidelined since having surgery on his Achilles tendon injury back in December, while Toure has been out of action since last August through a severe thigh injury.

Nonetheless, Chelle has named a solid squad for the AFCON finals, with the likes of skipper Hamari Traore, Salzburg forward Sekou Koita and the midfield trio of Amadou Haidara, Diadie Samassekou and Tottenham man Yves Bissouma headlining the team.

There are also a few new faces in Les Aigles' squad, including Saint-Etienne's Ibrahim Sissoko, Lorient forward Sirine Doucoure and 28-year-old goalkeeper Aboubacar Doumbia.

As for South Africa, skipper Ronwen Williams is currently dealing with a slight knee problem, while Mamelodi Sundowns man Mothobi Mvala recently picked up a groin injury.

While both players are being monitored, they have travelled to Ivory Coast, alongside the 23-man squad featuring the likes of Themba Zwane, Sundowns midfielder Teboho Mokoena and 29-year-old Percy Tau.

Tau, who plies his trade with Egyptian outfit Al-Ahly, has 15 international goals to his name and is the most experienced player in the Bafana Bafana squad, having made 42 appearances since his debut in October 2015.

Mali possible starting lineup:
Diawara; H Traore, Niakate, Fofana, Sacko; Haidara, Coulibaly, Bissouma; M Doumbia, Sissoko, Koita

South Africa possible starting lineup:
Mothwa; Mudau, Xulu, Sibisi, Modiba; Mokoena, Sithole; Lepasa, Zwane, Tau; Mayambela

We say: Mali 2-1 South Africa

Despite their injury crisis, Mali have a very solid and experienced squad and will be backing themselves to continue their fine run of results. Les Aigles' have an impressive opening-day record at the Africa Cup of Nations and we fancy them to claim a narrow victory in this one.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 2.5:data

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