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AFCON 2023 Round of 16 Preview: Mali vs Burkina Faso

There are only two more quarterfinal spots to be determined at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations and the first Round of 16 match on Tuesday features two friendly neighbors who will fight fiercely on the football pitch. Mali and Burkina Faso both have strong ambitions in Ivory Coast but only one team will move advance in Korhogo to face hosts Ivory Coast. Read all about both teams in our preview of Tuesday’s clash below:

Mali v Burkina Faso- 17:00 GMT

Mali

20-year-old attacking midfielder Kamory Doumbia is one of the revelations of the 2023 AFCON, assisting two of Mali’s three goals in the group stage

After playing their final Group E match in a different location, Mali return to Korhogo for the important clash where the Eagles enjoy strong support from the local Malian community as well as a large number of traveling supporters. However, despite winning the group many Malians were not satisfied with a lack of exciting football considering their high hopes of a deep run in Ivory Coast. Mali are slight favorites on Tuesday but supporters and the local media are anticipating a fierce battle on the pitch.

One area that coach Éric Chelle can count upon is his strong midfield. Young attacking midfielder Kamory Doumbia continues to distinguish himself as Mali’s best attacker and the Stade Brestois player will sit in front of a fierce trio that includes Yves Bissouma, Amadou Haidara and likely Lassana Coulibaly over excellent alternatives Aliou Dieng and Diadie Samassékou. Lassine Sinayoko is the most productive striker with two goals at the AFCON and it appears that Sekou Koïta will partner the Auxerre marksman.

Concerns were high regarding the Malian defense but the unit led by right back and captain Hamari Traoré passed the test in a rather weak Group E. Kiki Kouyaté and Sikou Niakaté played every minute so far as the central defensive partnership and have excellent physical qualities but can be a bit rash in the challenge at times. Falaye Sacko is naturally a right-footed fullback but has excellent stamina and tenacity that makes him the top choice for Chelle on the left flank. Djigui Diarra is a well known goalkeeper in African club football with good reflexes who currently plays for Tanzanian champions and 2022-23 CAF Confederation Cup finalists Young Africans.

Burkina Faso

Bertrand Traoré (L) and Dango Ouattara (R) have returned from injuries just in time to give the struggling Burkinabé attack a major boost for the knockout stages

Burkina Faso is a team that reached the semifinals in two of the last three editions of the AFCON but Burkinabé supporters desire a run to the final like in 2013. “We have the opportunity of rewriting history with this generation. Fortunately, some of the players and staff from the 2013 team have been in regular touch with us and have shared their experience and insight on what it takes to reach the finals of this tough competition”, said defender Steeve Yago. The head coach of the Stallions, Hubert Velud, acknowledged the strength of the Malian team but also stated that his players are all ready and have the same expectations as the supporters.

Outside of a strong performance against Algeria, the main concern for the Stallions is in the attack which sputtered its way through a 1-0 victory against Mauritania and were blanked by Angola in the final Group D match. Right winger and captain Bertrand Traoré made his first start against Angola as well as Bournemouth forward Dango Ouattara, which gives supporters hope that the goals will come easier. Ouattara played at the top of the formation against Angola but will begin on the left wing opposite Traoré to make room for powerful striker Mohamed Konaté, who is back from a yellow card suspension.

The midfield continues to be a concern, particularly ahead of a match against Mali who are particularly strong in that department. Ibrahim Blati Touré is the best performer and will be partnered in the center by defensive presence Ismahila Ouédraogo who replaced the injured Adama Guira. Gustavo Sangaré and Stephane Aziz Ki are the main options to operate as the advanced central midfielder in the system of Velud. The defense is the most reliable department for the Stallions with Yago on the left, Edmond Tapsoba and Issoufou Dayo in the center and attacking right back Issa Kaboré all in front of one of Africa’s finest goalkeepers, Hervé Koffi.

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