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AFCON 2023 Day 8 Preview: Algeria and Tunisia clash with rising West African nations Burkina Faso and Mali

Two duels featuring North African sides clashing with talented West African selections highlight the eighth day of action from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. Burkina Faso will aim to clinch their spot in the knockout stages of the competition against powerful Algeria who want to put a disappointing Group D draw with Angola behind them. Mali will enjoy fierce support in the lone Group E match of the day in what will feel like a home match against Tunisia where the alarms are ringing following a shock defeat to Namibia. Read more on both duels below as well as the clash between Angola and Mauritania who have their eyes on three points:

Group D: Algeria v Burkina Faso 14:00 GMT

Youcef Belaïli set up Baghdad Bounedjah for Algeria’s only goal against Angola

The two favorites to advance out of Group D, Algeria and Burkina Faso, begin the action on Saturday with some degree of familiarity. In 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying both clashes between the two ended in draws with Algeria narrowly edging Les Étalons for a spot in the playoff stage. This will be a different sort of duel with the conditions set to be a significant factor as Algeria attempt to put behind any doubts from their draw against Angola.

It was a positive start for Algeria who dominated the early proceedings against unfancied Angola but Les Verts failed to move beyond reach and ended the match with disappointment. Reports indicate that coach Djamel Belmadi will make some adjustments based on the opening match but also due to the anticipated hot conditions that arrive with playing in the afternoon.

For this reason Algerian media anticipates a change at the right back position due to a lack of match fitness for Youcef Atal who was exposed at times against Angola and suspended for the last nine matches at club OGC Nice due to controversial social media posts on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Kevin Guitoun came on as a substitute for Atal and the Metz player could appear from the start. Rayan Aït-Nouri was more impressive on the left flank and it should be Aïssa Mandi and Ramy Bensebaini in the center in front of goalkeeper Anthony Mandrea.

The center of the midfield was where the contribution was underwhelming for Algeria. Nabil Bentaleb struggled with the pace of Angola and another Nice player, Hicham Boudaoui, is being promoted by supporters as a better option. Ismaël Bennacer and Farès Chaïbi should remain in their positions considering their importance to the team. In attack Baghdad Bounedjah performed well at the striker position and will be flanked by Youcef Belaïli on the left and superstar Riyad Mahrez on the right wing.

Burkina Faso will depend on their strong central defense partnership of Issoufou Dayo (L) and Edmond Tapsoba (R) to neutralize the Algerian attack

Burkina Faso earned maximum points from their clash with Mauritania but it was quite ugly for the Stallions, particularly in the attack. There is plenty of motivation for coach Hubert Velud and his squad who want to prove that they can win Group D. For Velud, a former coach at top Algerian club USM Alger, it is a special occasion for the well traveled tactician who enjoyed his time in the North African country and has a couple of Algerians in his staff. The Burkinabé team is enjoying the role of underdogs but are quietly confident.

The big news for the Stallions is that forward Dango Ouattara is recovered from an injury and should be in the eleven to give a much needed boost to the Burkinabé attack. Strong striker Mohamed Konaté had only scraps to feed on against Mauritania but could give the Algerian defenders some issues with his physical profile. Captain Bertrand Traoré came on as a substitute to provide the winning penalty kick and his continuing struggles with fitness indicate that it will be a similar role for the remainder of the group stage. Cedric Badolo could move to the right wing to make way for Ouattara and Stephane Aziz Ki will hope to improve on a poor performance against Mauritania, likely in place of Mamady Bangré who was worse and substituted at the half.

Where Algeria anticipates the difficulties is in finding a way past the outstanding Burkinabé defense. Goalkeeper Hervé Koffi was our Man of the Match against Mauritania and he has the excellent duo of Edmond Tapsoba and Issoufou Dayo in front of him. Issa Kaboré is a right back who enjoys helping the attack with his forward runs and Steeve Yago is a reliable player of versatility who operates on the left. The heart of the midfield should feature Ibrahim “Blati” Touré and veteran Adama Guira, counted on by Velud despite skepticism from supporters who are eager to see younger option Ismahila Ouédraogo receive an opportunity.

Group D: Mauritania v Angola 17:00 GMT

Since being recruited to play for Mauritania, Aboubakary Koita is a noticeable improvement and was the greatest threat to score against Burkina Faso

The second match of the day is a must win for Angola searching for their first AFCON victory since 2012 while Mauritania are looking for not only their first ever win but also a first ever goal from the run of play. Angola did excellently to come back and earn a draw against Algeria but goals continue to be hard to come by for the team coached by Pedro Gonçalves. Mauritania played excellently against Burkina Faso but had nothing to show for it when the full time whistle arrived.

Mauritania coach Amir Abdou is clearly getting the best out of this squad and there is optimism despite the opening match defeat. Abdou expressed his trust in the players to find a way to score and raise their level to show they are capable of advancing from the group stage for the first time in their history at the AFCON.

The good news is that there is no significant damage to important striker Aboubakar Kamara who left the pitch in the first half against Burkina Faso. If he is fully fit then the man who made headlines for being referred to as “AK-47” by CAF media will lead the attacking line with Aboubakary Koita also included following a promising performance for the player in good form for Belgian club Sint-Truiden. Guessouma Fofana looks set to anchor the central midfield and an aggressive defense is led by captain Aly Abeid and talented right back Ibrahima Keita in front of giant goalkeeper Babacar Niasse.

Gelson Dala is Angola’s best attacker and is an important part of the plan for the Palancas Negras’ plans to defeat Mauritania

Gonçalves was clear in the pre-match press conference about the importance of the match, stating it will be a final for his team who know that this is the best opportunity to earn three points. The coach indicated that he will have an evolving strategy for the match after focusing on counter-attacks against heavy favorites Algeria in the first match. Confidence is higher in the team and the prevailing view is that the Palancas Negras are favorites and must assert themselves.

After coming out with a 3-5-2 formation against Algeria, Gonçalves made an early switch to bring in striker Mabululu for central midfielder Bruno Paz and there is good reason to believe Mabululu will retain his place with Zito Luvumbo and star Gelson Dala in support from the right and left wings. Captain Fredy will pull the strings from the midfield in front of holding midfielder Show, the Maccabi Haifa player who should operate in front of a defense led by central defenders Jonathan Buatu and Kialonda Gaspar. Nurio Fortuna was impressive at the left back position and the Belgian-based player adds quality in both attack and defense.

Group E: Tunisia v Mali 20:00 GMT

Captain Youssef Msakni needs to find his goal scoring boots for a Tunisia team that lacked finishing against Namibia

To complete the set of matches on Saturday, a team searching for answers meets a confident bunch when Tunisia engages a well supported Mali team in Group E. Tunisia were stunned by Namibia in their opening match, an occasion where the Eagles of Carthage were caught unprepared by an opponent they clearly studied little for. Mali overcame a stern challenge from South Africa and the Eagles fancy themselves as a team who can emerge as a contender to not only make a deep run but potentially win their first ever AFCON.

The defeat to Namibia sent shockwaves through Tunisian football and the team found it difficult to regroup as seen in the press conference following the match. However coach Jalel Kadri and his players are ready to get back on the winning path and emphasized that luck played a part in the loss. Kadri stated that he and his team disconnected themselves from the public reaction and social media to focus on preparing for a Malian team that is more than able to prolong the difficulties for the Eagles of Carthage.

Indeed the team had their chances and some great goalkeeping prevented Tunisia from finding the net. Youssef Msakni improved his performance in the second half and Elias Achouri showed some unique attributes on the wings. Striker Taha Khenissi left the team after an injury caused his early withdrawal meaning that replacement Haythem Jouini should be in the eleven, offering a strong presence to get on the end of crosses.

Midfielder Aïssa Laïdouni was brought on at halftime to improve the Tunisian performance and he should return to the eleven to join regular central partner Ellyes Skhiri. Sheffield United player Anis Ben Slimane will be a more attacking presence in the midfield who will allow Skhiri and Laïdouni to focus on limiting their powerful Malian counterparts. Tunisia’s greatest attacking movements against Namibia came from crosses and set piece deliveries by left back Ali Maâloul and a battle tested central defense composed of the duo of Yassine Meriah and Montasser Talbi will have to be at their best.

Amadou Haidara is one of several excellent central midfielders in the Mali squad and will be responsible for adding extra protection to the vulnerable Eagles defense

Mali coach Éric Chelle revealed an interesting approach for his team, remarking that the Eagles will allow Tunisia to come at them knowing their North African opponents need a positive result. The West African nation enjoy strong support in Korhogo where the match will be played due to its proximity to Mali where fans arrived in droves to give a home environment against South Africa. Confidence continues to flow for Chelle and his charges who wish to seize full control of Group E.

The defense continues to be the main concern for Malian supporters. Central defenders Kiki Kouyaté and Sikou Niakaté struggled at times with the South African attack but it will be a similar attack they face on Saturday with Tunisia having talent on the wings but questions at the striker position. Captain Hamari Traoré is an important presence on the right of the defense and Djigui Diarra is a capable goalkeeper with strong reflexes. Al Ahly midfielder Aliou Dieng and Amadou Haidara of RB Leipzig will provide further support to the defense as well.

The star of the attack was young midfielder Kamory Doumbia who continues to impress with his national team. Currently at Stade Brestois in France’s Ligue 1, the 20-year-old will partner with focal point Yves Bissouma to support the attack. Lassine Sinayoko appears to be the answer to doubts about the Malian strike force and should work with Sekou Koïta once again up top.

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