It may be early in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers but Mali already have their backs to the wall after a loss to Benin put them in a tough position prior to facing Algeria
D. Diakite, Berthe, Kante, Tamboura
B. Traore, Keita
Sow, A. Traore
Hachoud, Medjani, Bougherra, Mesbah
Guedioura, Lacen, Feghouli
With an unstable political situation at home looming over them, Mali were clearly not at their best this past weekend when they fell to a 1-0 loss to Benin at the Stade de L’Amitie in Cotonou. The defeat was the first of its kind against what was thought to be a relatively beatable Squirrels team, especially in light of the football that the Eagles were playing in January that helped them finish in third place at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
Much has changed since then though and the sudden departure of Alain Giresse certainly has not helped. Now caretaker coach Pathe Diallo faces the unenviable task of getting past a resurgent Algeria side without the benefit of a true home field advantage.
The match has been de-localised to Ouagadougou and it remains to be seen how many Malians will make the trip to Burkina Faso. Ultimately, the west Africans know that a loss on Saturday will seriously dent their chances of progressing to the next stage of 2014 World Cup qualifying.
On the other hand, Algeria’s 4-0 victory over a struggling Rwanda side at the Mustapha Tchaker Stadium in Blida last Saturday represented the Fennecs’ fifth win in a row. Vahid Halilhodzic’s rebuilding effort is clearly bearing fruit as his younger and more aggressively attacking side is beginning to show signs of confidence that it had lost following the country’s mediocre 2010 World Cup participation.
Nevertheless, the Franco-Bosnian has told the press that he is certain that a desperate Mali will put up a strong physical fight against his players. Halilhodzic claims to have watched the Benin - Mali game twice already and says that he will likely make changes to his side. Rafik Djebbour suffered an ankle injury in training before returning while Adlene Guedioura missed a practice as well.
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Algeria and Mali have faced each other a total of 14 times in their history. The Fennecs have won seven times, The Eagles six, and there has been only one draw.
The largest margin of victory in matches between the two teams was posted in 1981 when Algeria won 5-1 at home. Mali’s best victory was more recent, a 3-0 win in 2005 in Arles, France. The most recent match between these countries was at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola where Algeria won 1-0.
Coach Halilhodzic has logically tipped Modibo Maiga, Seydou Keita, and Cheikh Diabate as the players that his team will pay particular attention to. The Fennecs coach said that he was particularly impressed with Diabate’s effort in the loss against Benin, a match in which he won almost all of his individual duels.
Mali’s secessionist rebels in the north of the country have reportedly outlawed football in the areas that they control, declaring it un-Islamic.
- Despite leading Mali to a third place finish at the 2012 Afcon, Alain Giresse left the team in early May due to a contract dispute between him and the country’s football federation. The Frenchman refused to sign a contract that stipulated that the FA would have final say on his choice of players and would pick the medical staff for the team.
According to stats provided by their coach in an interview this week, Algeria have progressed a great deal: They completed 546 passes in the game against Rwanda, a great improvement over the 199 successful passes they had against Morocco just a year ago.