Eagles, Pharaohs set for key clash

Eagles, Pharaohs set for key clash
Egyptian players Mahmoud Kahraba (R) and Mohamed Salah (L)

by BackPageTXT

Tuesday Jan 17, 2017. 16:30

Mali and Egypt will meet for their opening Group D clash at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday evening.

The match will be staged in Port-Gentil, with kick-off set for 21h00 CAT.

Mali have enjoyed a strong run of form at the AFCON in recent years: their last showing in 2015 may have ended in the group stages, but in both 2012 and 2013 they finished in third place and looked genuine contenders to win the crown for the first time.

Quite whether the class of 2017 under coach Alain Giresse has the same pedigree remains to be seen, but the Eagles believe they have what it takes to challenge Group D’s two favourites - Ghana and Egypt - for a place in the quarterfinals.

As for the Pharaohs, there is no doubting their pedigree in the AFCON. The North Africans have won a record seven titles, including a hat-trick from their last three showings in the tournament (2006, 2008 and 2010).

That it’s been seven years since Africa’s most successful side last played in the Nations Cup would normally be surprise, but it’s worth remembering the political and social upheaval experienced by Egypt in the intervening years and its inevitable effect on all spheres of life, including sport.

Under Hector Cuper they have not only returned to the AFCON but have set their sights on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, sending a statement of intent with a win over Ghana, who they will face later in the group stage.

Striker Marwan Mohsen, who scored the winner in Egypt’s 1-0 triumph over Tunisia in a warm-up friendly, sees the first game against Mali as vital to their hopes.

“Egypt’s group in the tournament is very difficult but we can win the title if we get off to a strong start in the group stage with positive results,” said the Al Ahly attacker.

According to FIFA, Mali and Egypt have clashed in nine official matches, with each side claiming four wins in the rivalry. Their last meeting was a friendly in Abu Dhabi in 2008.

Key players

Mali - Sambou Yatabare
One of Mali’s most experienced players, Sambou Yatabare is a powerhouse in midfield who will look to dominate the ‘engine room’ and lay the foundation for the Eagles to dominate. The Werder Bremen player will have to be at the top of his game for the challenge offered by the Pharaohs.

Egypt - Mohamed Salah
Widely regarded as one of the most gifted - and speedy - African players of his generation, Mohamed Salah is expected to inspire Egypt to greater heights at the 2017 AFCON. The Roma forward will hope his pace can cause havoc against a Mali defence not renowned for mobility.

Head-to-Head - Mali v Egypt

Mali FIFA ranking: 64
Egypt FIFA ranking: 35
Matches played: 9
Mali wins: 4
Egypt wins: 4
Draws: 1
Mali goals scored: 8
Egypt goals scored: 8
Last match: 10 January 2008 in Abu Dhabi - Egypt 1-0 Mali

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