Mustapha Yatabare of Mali (C) watches the screen in the stadium anxiously awaiting result of the 1-1 draw between Ghana and Guinea, which sees Mali qualify for the quarterfinals. ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Thursday Mar 24, 2016. 20:28
The Eagles of Mali will bank on home ground advantage when they host Equatorial Guinea in their crucial 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier on Friday.
Coached by Olivier Giresse, the Eagles are the Group C leaders with four points from a win against South Sudan and a draw against Benin.
However, hosting the Nzalang Nacional could boost their chances of remaining on top of the standings considering the bad run of the visitors.
Giresse led the locally-based Eagles to Rwanda earlier this year for the 2016 CAF Africa Championships and they did well finishing as runners up having lost 3-0 to DR Congo.
Ahead of this two-legged affair, the manager has called up a strong squad to face the 2015 AFCON hosts and that signals his intentions in the group.
The presence of players such as midfielder Sambou Yatabaré from Werder Brêmen in Germany and forward Cheick Tidiane Diabaté of Bordeaux could make it difficult for the visiting team.
Shifting focus to the visiting side, Nacional have not been convincing after drawing against Benin and succumbing to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of South Sudan away.
Heading into this encounter, they will have to pull at the stops and fight for a win to revive their qualification hopes to the continental showpiece.
Coach Esteban Becker's side are now placed at the bottom of the log table with only one point after two games - conceding goals and losing is not in their plans.
Esteban will pin his hopes on the experience of his goalkeeper, Charles Ovono, who is based in South Africa plying his trade at Orlando Pirates, to provide leadership and experience.
The first leg is set to be staged at Stade 26 Mars in Bamako on Friday night at 21:00 with the return leg set for Nuevo Estadio de Malabo on Monday.