AFCON 2023: Mali and South Africa clash in opening battle


In a highly anticipated clash at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo, Mali and South Africa are set to kick off their African Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaigns, bringing an intriguing battle to the pitch.

Mali, with their 13th appearance and ninth in succession, enter the match as favorites despite failing to secure a victory in the last three head-to-head encounters (D1, L2), with the most recent meeting occurring over four years ago.

While Mali’s AFCON journey hasn’t reached the heights of their runner-up finish in 1972, recent endeavors have seen them reach the Round of 16 stage in the last two tournaments.

With no defeats in their last eight matches (W6, D2), the Eagles, ranked 51st by FIFA, aim to make a strong statement in the competition and progress beyond the knockout stage.

Mali’s coach, Éric Chelle, a former Malian international, will be tasked with extracting the best from his squad.

On the opposing side is South Africa’s manager, Hugo Broos, a former Belgian international renowned for leading Cameroon to AFCON glory in 2017. Broos faces the challenge of reviving South Africa’s AFCON fortunes, having struggled to make an impact since their triumph in 1996.

South Africa, entering their 11th finals and first participation since 2019, has the daunting task of overcoming a formidable Malian side.

With just one win in their last five matches, the Bafana Bafana start this clash as underdogs, but players like Percy Tau, who has netted eight of his last nine goals after half-time, will be key to their aspirations.

As the stage is set for this AFCON opener, fans eagerly anticipate the duel between Kamory Doumbia, unbeaten in his nine appearances for Mali, and Percy Tau, the sharpshooter for South Africa. With only one scoreless half in their five previous encounters, the match promises excitement, drama, and a crucial start for both teams in the tournament.

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