With three runner-up finishes at the African Nations Championship between Mali and Angola along with a Mauritania team that is looking very impressive in its preparation matches, an ultra competitive Group D kicks off on Monday with plenty at stake between Les Aigles Locaux of Mali and the Palancas Negras of Angola. Mali finished their preparations with zero goals conceded in three matches but only one goal scored with Real Bamako’s Makan Samabaly tallying in a 1-0 victory against DR Congo on January 10. Angola conducted their preparations in Portugal with three matches, registering wins wins against Benfica’s B team and Olhanense as well as a draw against Swiss club Servette.
Runners-up at the previous edition of the CHAN in Cameroon, Mali retains eight players from the 2020 squad. Coach Nouhoum Diané acknowledged that it is difficult to build team chemistry due to the large amount of player transfers abroad from the country’s Première Division but was satisfied with his side’s preparation. Veteran 36-year-old Djoliba AC forward Hamidou Sinayoko appears likely to lead the line and 32-year-old Moussa Koné has previous experience up top in the CHAN having started five of Mali’s six matches including the 2-0 defeat against Morocco in the 2020 final.
Samabaly is a trusted player for coach Diané who manages the player at Real Bamako, current leaders of Mali’s top division through nine matches played. Nine players from the club are in the squad of Diané including forward Koné and four of the squad’s eight midfielders including Samabaly. Diané is counting on plenty of experience in his squad as well as his familiarity with the players from Real he trains on a regular basis. Mali in general at the CHAN tend to be a well organized and physically imposing team that excels at set pieces and winning close matches.
Angola are quietly confident of winning their first ever CHAN and Mali will be an excellent test for the Palancas Negras and coach Pedro Gonçalves, who unlike Mali coach Diané also manages the senior national team. 2021-22 CAF Champions League semifinalists Petro de Luanda have a substantial presence in the Angola squad with left back Tó Carneiro and right back Eddie Afonso providing plenty of energy getting forward on the flanks. Veteran 36-year-old goalkeeper and FC Porto youth product Hugo Marques recently returned to Angolan football, moving to Petro after plenty of experience abroad in his country of birth Portugal and most recently with Cape Town City in South Africa’s DStv Premiership.
Petro winger Jaredi was important to his club’s CAF Champions League success last season and the diminutive attacker is unpredictable on the dribble. Captain and midfielder Herenilson started all four matches for Angola in their last appearance at the CHAN in 2018 and the Primeiro de Agosto player will be a presence of stability in the heart of the Angolan formation. Angola’s weakness may be in the forward line following the departure of talented young forward Zini to AEK Athens but the Palancas Negras are experienced and formidable with a coach who has gotten excellent results so far in his tenure.
More information on both teams is in the links below.