Bafana opponent Mali names formidable Afcon squad

Bafana Bafana’s first opponents in the Africa Cup of Nations, Mali, on Wednesday named a strong squad for the tournament to be staged in Ivory Coast later this month.

Though the event is officially 2023 Afcon, the Confederation of African Football has since decided it would be staged in 2024, from January 13.

Mali, in Group E with South Africa, Tunisia and Namibia, open their 2023 Afcon account against Bafana Bafana on January 16 at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo. 

Though the Eagles are injury-hit, on paper the West Africans look very strong as their squad is largely overseas-based. Only Al Ahly midfielder Aliou Dieng and two of the three goalkeepers in the 27-man squad play their football in Africa.

Among those missing in action is Crystal Palace midfielder Cheick Doucoure, following his recent surgery to treat an Achilles tendon injury. Also out of the squad are striker El Bilal Toure of Italy’s Atalanta (thigh injury), striker Ibrahima Kone (Almeria, Spain), fullback Massadio Haidara (Racing Lens, France) and left-back Moussa Djenepo (Standard Liege, Belgium).

In addition to their injury blues, Mali have named two uncapped players. However, Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Boubacar Traore and Lorient striker Sirine Doucoure play in two of the top leagues in Europe.

Traore has international experience at youth level after turning out for Mali under-20, with whom he won the 2019 African Under-20 Championship.

Meanwhile, coach Eric Chelle will test his squad when Mali welcome Guinea-Bissau for a friendly match in Bamako on Saturday.

Mali squad:

Goalkeepers: Aboubacar Doumbia (Afrique Football Elite), Djigui Diarra (Young Africans), Ismael Diawara (Malmo)

Defenders: Amadou Dante (Sturm Graz), Moussa Diarra (Toulouse), Mamadou Fofana (Amiens), Boubacar Kiki Kouyate (Montpellier), Sikou Niakate (Sporting Braga), Falaye Sacko (Montpellier), Hamari Traore (Stade Rennais)

Midfielders: Yves Bissouma (Tottenham Hotspur), Mohamed Camara (Monaco), Lassana Coulibaly (Salernitana), Aliou Dieng (Al Ahly), Kamory Doumbia (Stade Brest), Amadou Haidara (RB Leipzig), Diadie Samassekou (Hoffenheim), Adama ‘Noss’ Traore (Hull City), Boubacar Traore (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Forwards: Fousseni Diabate (Lausanne Sport), Nene Dorgeles (Salzburg), Sirine Doucoure (Lorient), Moussa Doumbia (Al Adala), Sekou Koita (Salzburg), Youssoufa Nikaite (Bani Yas), Lassine Sinayoko (AJ Auxerre), Ibrahima Sissoko (Saint Etienne).

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