Currently 51st in the world ranking and 9th in Africa, Les Aigles (The Eagles) of Mali will be in search of another opportunity to earn a spot in the finals of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON). This means the Eagles have yet to win the AFCON; however, their best result at the tournament was finishing as runners-up in 1972.
Mali, heading to AFCON 2023, still looks like a side that does not have the most formidable team like others do, but their cohesion, team spirit, and style of play are quite unique, making them stand out. Starting in Group E against South Africa, Namibia, and Tunisia, players such as K Doumbia and Hamari Traore are my top two assets to target going forward.
The Carthage Eagles of Mali, en route to AFCON 2021, despite securing the third position in Group F to qualify, surprised many by defeating then Group D leaders, Nigeria, in the Round of 16. Unfortunately, their hard work came undone in the quarterfinals when they faced Burkina Faso.
On June 18th, 2023, The Eagles secured their ticket for a 13th AFCON appearance in Cote D’Ivoire. Mali finished as Group leaders in then Group G with 15 points, having five wins and just one defeat, scoring 15 goals and conceding only two goals.
The Carthage Eagles have their top scorers as Muhammed Camara and K Doumbia, who scored three goals each. El Bilal Toure, Ibrahima Kone, and Nene Dorgeles notched two goals, while K Coulibaly, A Dieng, and Adama Traore earned one goal each.
Kamory Doumbia, Carthage Eagles of Mali, has been consistent for his club and country. The 20-year-old scored three goals for the Eagles during the qualifiers and is currently on strong league form in Ligue 1.
The Carthage Eagles are well known for preferring a high-press style of play in and out of possession, pushing their opponents to be uncomfortable for 90 minutes until they break and lose the ball. The hunger never ends until the final whistle is blown.
In preparation for AFCON 2023, Mali got a 6-2 win in a friendly match against Guinea-Bissau. Goal-scorers included Youssouf Niakaté, Kamory Doumbia, Lassana Coulibaly, Falaye Sacko, and Néné Dorgeles' brace.
The head Coach of Mali’s national team, Éric Chelle, prefers a direct tactical approach, straightforward, and mostly uses the 4-3-3 formation (on paper) but changes to a narrow 4-3-1-2 formation in transition.
One of the biggest losses for Mali is Crystal Palace's Cheick Doucoure, who recently underwent surgery on his Achilles tendon. Other key absentees include star striker El Bilal Toure and Ibrahima Kone. Nonetheless, the Carthage Eagles of Mali under Coach Éric Chelle have selected three England-based players in their squad: Tottenham's Yves Bissouma, Wolves' Boubacar Traore, and Hull City's Adama Noss Traoré.
Mali's AFCON 2023 squad includes:
Goalkeepers: Aboubacar Doumbia, Djigui Diarra, Ismael Diawara.
Defenders: Amadou Dante, Moussa Diarra, Mamadou Fofana, Boubacar Kiki Kouyate, Sikou Niakate, Falaye Sacko, Hamari Traore.
Midfielders: Yves Bissouma, Mohamed Camara, Lassana Coulibaly, Aliou Dieng, Kamory Doumbia, Amadou Haidara, Diadie Samassekou, Adama Noss Traore, Boubacar Traore.
Forwards: Fousseni Diabate, Nene Dorgeles, Sirine Doucoure, Moussa Doumbia, Sekou Koita, Youssoufa Nikaite, Lassine Sinayoko, Ibrahima Sissoko.
Mali has been drawn in what many people are calling the AFCON Group of Death, alongside Tunisia, South Africa, and Namibia. The Carthage Eagles of Mali will open their AFCON 2024 campaign with a match against South Africa. However, at full strength, Mali should come out on top. Their aim will be to come through the matches with South Africa and Tunisia with their fate still in their own hands, as their final group game is against Namibia, who have only featured in three previous AFCON tournaments.