Mali hope to consolidate their leadership of Group B today when they face Ghana, who coach Patrice Carteron described as the “Germany” of Africa.
Mali are top of the table courtesy of a 1-0 win over Niger on Sunday, while Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have a point each after a thrilling 2-2 draw.
Carteron said Ghana are an ever-present at the Cup of Nations and have a strong mentality, just like former World Cup and European champions Germany.
“Ghana are the ‘Germany’ of Africa. They are always up there at the Cup of Nations and, above all, they have a very good mentality, just like the Germans,” the former Olympique Lyonnais and AS Saint-Etienne defender said. “We will, therefore, have to be prepared for a battle against such a team, but our win over Niger has boosted confidence.”
Last year, the teams clashed twice at the Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Ghana won the group game in Franceville 2-0 with second-half goals from Asamoah Gyan and Andre Ayew, but Mali avenged that defeat by beating the Black Stars by the same score to clinch third place in Malabo.
On Sunday, Mali struggled to break down a tight defense mounted by the Mena (Gazelles) of Niger and they needed a scrambled effort by skipper Seydou Keita to carry the day.
They have been boosted by the return of West Ham United forward Modibo Maiga, who missed the Niger match because of a thigh injury.
Maiga returns to combine with giant Girondins de Bordeaux striker Cheick Tidiane Diabate, who looked isolated up front for long periods against Niger.
Ghana are one of the tournament favorites, but need to get a result against Mali to keep their hopes of a fifth title alive.
Skipper Gyan said they would go into the west African derby with a winning mentality.
“We have to have a winning mentality because the more you win, the more you qualify,” said Gyan, who saw the Black Stars surrender a two-goal lead on Sunday. “Ghanaians should have confidence in this team because we will ensure we go past the group stage, to begin with.”
A likely change in the Ghana starting lineup would see more experienced centerback Isaac Vorsah coming in for Turkey-based Jerry Akaminko, who gave away a penalty in the opening match.