Africa Cup of Nations preview: Mali

Seydou Keita
© PA Photos
Sports Mole looks ahead to how Seydou Keita's Mali may fare at this year's Africa Cup of Nations.

Mali have never won the Africa Cup of Nations and what's more, they have only competed in one final, which ended in a 3-2 defeat against the People's Republic of the Congo.

While in the past there have been question marks about squad selection heading into major tournaments, this time around coach Patrice Carteron appears to have pleased the nation.

His playing unit includes a well-balanced blend of youth and experience, all of whom are known to have a lot of respect for their manager.

They booked their place at the tournament with a comfortable win over Botswana in the final qualifying phase.

Group: B

Players to watch out for:

Seydou Keita

The legs might not be what they once were, but Keita's presence among the squad could prove beneficial to Mali's chances of making an impact at the tournament. Despite the fact that he now plays his football for the largely unknown Chinese side Dalian Aerbin, the former Barcelona midfielder is his country's captain and is a veteran of almost 80 international appearances.

Cheick Diabate

He may not be a household name like Keita, but Diabate's record for Mali cannot be argued with. The Bordeaux frontman has got 11 international goals to his name, including two during the qualifying encounters with Botswana. His willingness to close down defenders also makes him a good partner for West Ham United's Modibo Maiga.

Previous best: Runners-up 1972

Odds outright to win: 14/1

Sports Mole says: Quarter-finals

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