Mali AFCON 2023 squad reaction: Can Les Aigles end their 52-year wait for a final?

You have to go back to 1972 for the last time Mali made it all the way to an AFCON final and with the Mali AFCON 2023 squad now locked in, their supporters will be dreaming of a similar run 52 years later. It's not going to be easy though as Mali haven't made it further than the round of 16 in their last four attempts – can they banish those demons and have a tournament to remember with this current squad?

Latest Mali AFCON 2023 outright odds

Mali AFCON 2023 outright odds

Mali AFCON 2023 squad review

On paper, Mali could have had a formidable squad for AFCON 2023 but unfortunately for them, injuries in the build-up to the tournament have been devastating. Several key players have missed their race to be fit for the tournament which has resulted in manager, Éric Chelle, naming a couple of uncapped players in his 27-man squad.

One of the biggest losses for Mali is Crystal Palace's Cheick Doucoure who has recently undergone surgery on his Achilles tendon. Other key absentees include star striker El Bilal Toure who was tipped for a big season before suffering a serious thigh injury in pre-season for Atalanta. Ibrahima Kone, who has 13 goals in 17 Mali caps, is also unavailable.

Mali have selected three England-based players in their squad. These are Tottenham's Yves Bissouma, Wolves' Boubacar Traore and Hull City's Adama Noss Traoré. Boubacar Traore is one of two uncapped players to get the nod.

Full Mali AFCON 2023 squad

Goalkeepers

  • Aboubacar Doumbia (Afrique Football Elite)
  • Djigui Diarra (Young Africans)
  • Ismael Diawara (Malmo)

Defenders

  • Amadou Dante (Sturm Graz)
  • Moussa Diarra (Toulouse)
  • Mamadou Fofana (Amiens)
  • Boubacar Kiki Kouyate (Montpellier)
  • Sikou Niakate (Sporting Braga)
  • Falaye Sacko (Montpellier)
  • Hamari Traore (Real Sociedad)

Midfielders

  • Yves Bissouma (Tottenham Hotspur)
  • Mohamed Camara (Monaco)
  • Lassana Coulibaly (Salernitana)
  • Aliou Dieng (Al Ahly)
  • Kamory Doumbia (Stade Brest)
  • Amadou Haidara (RB Leipzig)
  • Diadie Samassekou (Hoffenheim)
  • Adama Noss Traore (Hull City)
  • Boubacar Traore (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Forwards

  • Fousseni Diabate (Lausanne Sport)
  • Nene Dorgeles (Salzburg)
  • Sirine Doucoure (Lorient)
  • Moussa Doumbia (Al Adala)
  • Sekou Koita (Salzburg)
  • Youssoufa Nikaite (Bani Yas)
  • Lassine Sinayoko (AJ Auxerre)
  • Ibrahima Sissoko (Saint Etienne)
Yves Bissouma
Yves Bissouma will be central to Mali's hopes – Photo by Icon sport

In-form players

Without El Bilal Toure and Ibrahima Kone, Mali are unquestionably lacking certified firepower at the top end of the pitch. The weight of expectation is going to land on Sekou Koita and Ibrahima Sissoko for goals. The pair are averaging close a goal every two games in club football this season.

In midfield, Yves Bissouma has been reborn under Ange Postecoglou for Tottenham so far this season. Bissouma had fallen way down the pecking order under Antonio Conte but has been back to his Brighton levels this season in the middle of the park. Disciplinary issues have derailed his campaign in recent weeks but that should mean he's feeling fresh ahead of AFCON 2023.

With firepower down, Mali will need their defence to be inch-perfect if they are to have any joy at the tournament. Montpellier duo Boubacar Kouyate and Falaye Sacko are enjoying good seasons at club level in a defence that has conceded the second-fewest goals in Ligue 1 outside the top seven.

Tactical analysis

Mali have been drawn to play in what many people are labelling the AFCON Group of Death. They are alongside Tunisia, South Africa and Namibia and will need to pick up positive results in two of the three games to qualify for the Round of 16.

Mali open up their campaign with a match against South Africa. If Mali were at full strength, you'd fancy them to come out on top here but their injury woes a real leveller here. From a defensive point of view, they will need to keep South Africa's Bongokuhle Hlongwane quiet on the right wing. The Minnesota United forward scored 17 goals in 33 appearances last season.

Things don't get any easier after the clash with South Africa as Mali then face Tunisia in their second group game. Tunisia are being tipped as dark horses by many and are the third-highest-ranked team in the entire tournament.

The aim for Mali 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.

Mali AFCON 2023 squad reaction
Team spirit will be key for Mali amid an injury crisis – Photo by Icon Sport

Current odds

Mali are currently longshots to win AFCON 2023 with odds of 20/1 (21.0).

Mali AFCON Trivia

  • Mali have never been crowned AFCON champions.
  • Based on the FIFA World Rankings, Mali are the 9th best team at AFCON 2023
  • Mali once went 22 years without qualifying for AFCON.
  • Captain, Hamari Traore will earn his 50th international cap during the tournament.
  • Mali lost on penalties to Equatorial Guinea in the 2021 round of 16.

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Andy Delaney

Andy is a freelance Sports Journalist with ten years of experience covering football in the United Kingdom and abroad for various publications including the Manchester Evening News, UtdReport and Football Whispers. Andy also has a keen interest in basketball, cricket, golf and tennis and has covered major sporting events such as the Masters in Augusta.