Mali players celebrate a goal at the 2010 Afcon finals while Angola’s Stelvio looks dejected.
A draw should be enough to see Mali into the quarter-finals of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations when they take on DR Congo in their final Group B clash in Durban on Monday.
Mali coach Patrice Carteron was livid after their 1-0 loss to Ghana in the week – feeling that the referee cost the team a point at least – but must now focus on combating a tricky DR Congo side.
The build-up to this match has seen Bastia midfielder Sambou Yatabaré quit the national team after the first two games, allegedly because did not see action in the win over Niger and loss to Ghana.
Carteron has taken the player’s decision in his stride, but will be unhappy at the precedent set and will hope the incident has not been too disruptive on the rest of the squad.
“I told him I needed him and that we counted on him, but he said he felt left out because he has not had playing time,” Carteron says. “I feel that maybe I made a mistake in selecting him, I find this behavior sad and disheartening and I hope the Malian football federation would give appropriate sanctions.
“What I want to do now is to devote my energy for the 22 players who want to honour the colours of a nation like Mali.”
Mali battled to get going in their loss to Ghana. Whatever the merits of the refereeing, The Eagles were well below their usual standard.
Seydou Keita remains the real danger man of the side and they will rely heavily on him again. If he fires, the team tends to lift their performance around him.
The equation is quite simple for DR Congo: nothing but a win will see them into the quarter-finals. The side did well to draw 2-2 with Ghana in their opener, and then really should have beaten Niger in their second game, but wasted a host of excellent opportunities.
Coach Claude LeRoy is at his seventh Nations Cup finals, having won the title with Cameroon in 1988. He has worked extensively in west Africa, but never coached Mali. But he will be well aware of the threat they pose.