Mali coach expresses appreciation for South Africa local-based players ahead of AFCON opener

Ahram Online , Tuesday 16 Jan 2024

Mali coach Eric Chelle expressed his appreciation for South Africa's local-based players, refusing to underestimate them, ahead of Tuesday’s game between both teams in the African Cup of Nations.

Eric Chelle
Mali s head coach Eric Chelle gives a press conference at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on January, 2024 on the eve of the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Mali and South Africa. AFP

 

Mali were drawn in Group E fixtures against South Africa, Tunisia, and Namibia.

The Malian team will kick off their group stage campaign at the continental prestigious tournament by facing South Africa, who are searching for their first African title since 1996.

“They all play in the same league and so we respect this team as they are former winners of the competition. They may not have a lot of players overseas but the fact that they play in the same league means that they know each other very well, which is a great advantage in such a competition. They are not to be underestimated,” Chelle was quoted as saying by CAF’s official website just hours before the game.

Mali met South Africa officially last time in the 2013 edition quarter-final when they passed the Bafana Bafana team on penalties after a 2-2 draw.

Despite acknowledging the strength of his experienced opponents, the 46-year-old Chelle stressed that his team is well prepared for Tuesday’s confrontation.

“South Africa has been participating for several years in AFCON. We don’t take them lightly and they have actually won the AFCON. We are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, but we have also prepared well for this match,” concluded the coach.

Mali did not win the precious African Cup of Nations before; their best result in the tournament was finishing as runners-up once in the 1972 edition.

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