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Africa: Mali Cautious Ahead of Mauritania Derby Clash

Mali coach Diane Nouhoum has admitted that their TotalEnergies African Nations Championship (CHAN) tie against Mauritania on Tuesday is not exactly a straightforward victory.

The Eagles have been tipped by many as favourites as the two sides match up in their last Group D fixture at the ongoing tournament hosted by Algeria.

Speaking to the media in the pre-match press conference on Monday, Nouhoum highlighted that there are no small teams at the tournament and that every team deserves to be respected regardless of their history.

Mali, who reached two CHAN finals in 2016 in Rwanda and in 2021 in Cameroon, do not want to be distracted by their past success but instead focus on the task at hand.

“We know that it will not be easy to win against a team that is achieving progress day by day. If I am not mistaken, they have the same players who play in their Team A which makes things very difficult for us. Every team in this tournament is great and we know that Mauritania have good momentum right now,” Nouhoum admitted.

Mali have one point from one game following a commendable comeback to overturn a 3-1 deficit to level the scoreline 3-3 against Angola in their opener – a stunning performance that gave them a lifeline to progress to the next stage.

“We sent a clear message in our last game. There are some things that you cannot do with young players especially in the defence aspect. We shall focus on the individual and team aspect. Angola have very good players. They managed to score three goals. At halftime, we tried to change our strategy. The players should stick to the tactics. We shall try to avoid the scenario of the Angola match.”

Against Mauritania, Mali face their neighbours in a much-anticipated West African derby that reflects a modern day David vs Goliath match up.

“The players know what they have been asked to do. I am not worried. Following the first game, we were able to discuss and talk about this. We are representing Mali which is something that is very important. This is what I prepare my players for.”

“We want to reach a balance between offense and defence. Tactically, every team wants to achieve this and we want to make sure that our defense is strong but that also means that we shall try to score goals. We also will avoid conceding.”

The two sides last faced each other in September 2019 in the CHAN 2020 Qualifiers. In the first leg in Nouakchott, they settled for a goalless draw before Mali defeated Mauritania 2-0 in the return leg in Bamako to progress to the tournament that was played in 2021 in Cameroon with Mali reaching the final against eventual winners Morocco.