Thursday Oct 05, 2017. 14:00
Mali coach Jonas Komla has shrugged off the ‘favourites tag’ ahead of the start of the 2017 U-17 World Cup in India tomorrow.
Mali, who are the African champions, come into the tournament as one of the most feared teams.
They were runners-up at the last U-17 World Cup in Chile two years ago and their conveyor belt of young talent keeps churning out exceptional players.
The young Eagles will open their campaign with a Group B clash against Paraguay in Navi Mumbai on Friday.
“We are not telling ourselves we are the favourites,” Komla is quoted by the New Indian Express.
“All the 24 teams are here on merit. At the U-17 level, there is very little in terms of skill that separates them. We are just trying to reach our maximum potential.”
Mali’s impressive success at junior level is in stark contrast to the senior side, which has yet to even qualify for a first World Cup.
“There is no problem for the kids playing from U-17 to U-20,” explained Komla.
“For us, it is easy to gather them in Bamako and monitor them physically and psychologically.
“But after that, they go their separate ways, some to leagues in Europe. So it’s difficult to get them together and train them consistently.
“We need more continuity to make sure we start doing well in the seniors as well.”