South Africa vs Mali first goalscorer prediction: Can Bafana Bafana keep out Koita?

Potential Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) dark horses Mali kick off their continental campaign against sleeping giants South Africa on Tuesday night. That makes for some clear candidates in the South Africa vs Mali first goalscorer prediction market.

Sekou Koita is our pick for South Africa vs Mali first goalscorer prediction
Sekou Koita has been prolific in limited minutes – Photo by Icon Sport

South Africa vs Mali first goalscorer prediction and odds

Sekou Koita (Mali) – 11/2

Mali have never won AFCON, and have failed to reach the last four since 2013, but if anyone can amend that, it is Sekou Koita. The bookies’ favourite to score first and / or anytime against South Africa, the 24-year-old plies his domestic trade with Red Bull Salzburg.

His efficiency is impressive too, as despite sustaining two injuries that have kept him out for at least a month at a time, Koita has still delivered goals. He has started just one league game, yet has still netted three goals in his 191 minutes on the pitch.

Koita also netted a crucial late winner in AFCON qualifying against Namibia. With usual striker Kamory Doumbia absent, Koita has a big chance to make himself a hero.

Nene Dorgeles
Nene Dorgeles has impressed in his RB Salzburg cameos – Photo by Icon Sport

Nene Dorgeles (Mali) – 8/1

Another Salzburg super sub is 21-year-old Nene Dorgeles, who, after three loan spells elsewhere across Europe, has finally started to make an impact with his parent club. 

Dorgeles has scored two and assisted another two in just 599 league minutes this season, a rate of 0.6 goals and assists per 90. He has even been trusted with cameos against the likes of Benfica and Inter in the Champions League. 

The versatile attacker has largely been a super sub for his country too, but did net his first goals for Mali in qualifying recently.

Lassine Sinayoko (Mali) – 9/1

A more consistent presence in Mali’s starting eleven has been Auxerre winger Lassine Sinayoko. The 24-year-old has started all of Mali’s previous three from the left, and netted his first goal for his nation in October against Saudi Arabia.

Sinayoko has been in good form domestically too, with four goals and two assists in Ligue 2 so far this season and has been a key part of Auxerre’s promotion charge. With Doumbia missing, Sinayoko may step up.

South Africa AFCON odds
South Africa face long odds to repeat the heroics of 1996.

Evidence Makgopa (South Africa) – 10/1

Bafana Bafana are a long way from the days of Benni McCarthy, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Aaron Mokoena, and come into this contest as underdogs. South Africa’s most likely player to score is young striker Evidence Makgopa. The 23-year-old started the majority of South Africa’s games in 2023, but has also shared striking duties with Mihlali Mayambela at times.

Makgopa plays in South Africa for domestic giants Orlando Pirates, where he has scored four goals in 11 appearances so far. Since his 2021 debut, Makgopa has netted three for his nation.

South Africa have a very poor AFCON record in the 21st century. Since coming first, second and third in 1996, 1998 and 2000, Bafana Bafana have not made it past the quarter finals once, despite having one of the largest populations on the continent. To turn around their dismal record and rediscover their best form, young players like Makgopa need to come good and deliver.

For more on South Africa's chances at AFCON, check out our South Africa preview

Yves Bissouma
Yves Bissouma will be sorely missed by Spurs during AFCON – Photo by Icon Sport

Yves Bissouma (Mali) – 22/1

While far from an assured pick to score, the Eagles’ all-round star is undoubtedly Spurs midfielder Yves Bissouma. The 27-year-old plays a deep role in North London and is yet to score a goal in Tottenham white. But for his nation, he is the fulcrum of the side, and even dons the number 10 shirt, with three goals to boot.

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William Evans

William Evans is a football and politics fanatic. A first-class graduate of UEA's Broadcast and Digital Journalism MA course, he also achieved a first class degree in politics and media studies during his time at UEA.