Angola vs Mali: Vasiljevic happy just to be in the hunt

Angola needs a win against Group E leader Mali to be sure of progression to the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Angola missed out in 2015 and 2017 but made the cut at the Africa Cup of Nations this time. Photo: Reuters

Srdjan Vasiljevic has not ruled out Angola's progression to the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations but insists qualification for the tournament was the main goal.

Angola missed out in 2015 and 2017 but made the cut with the extended format this time around. Vasiljevic's men have drawn their two Group E games so far — against Tunisia and Mauritania — but head into Tuesday's clash with Mali within a win of putting themselves through.

However, Vasiljevic believes his side must be proud of simply making it to the finals, as it looks to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. "I reiterate that our initial goal has already been achieved from the time we qualified for this championship," he told a news conference.

'Our work does not stop here'

"Let's play our game with dedication and determination, and if the opponent lets us play, let's do it, and look for the win that all the team seeks. The goal was to qualify the team for the Cup of Nations and then Qatar, so our work does not stop here."

Mali, meanwhile, sits top of the group with four points from its two matches, having hammered Mauritania 4-1 before drawing 1-1 with Tunisia on Friday. A point would be enough to guarantee its place in the last 16, and despite his side conceding shortly after going ahead in its last outing, coach Mohamed Magassouba is satisfied with the position Mali finds itself in heading into the final group match.

"We would have felt better if we won but a draw is not a bad result," the coach told the media.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Angola — Wilson Eduardo

The Braga forward scored 12 league goals last season and having had to settle for a place on the bench against Mauritania, will be eager to open his account for the tournament against a Mali side that is likely to be more adventurous than Angola's previous opponent.

Mali — Moussa Marega

Marega's powerful display earned him the Man-of-the-Match award against Tunisia, and the Porto forward acts as an excellent focal point for Mali to build its attacks around.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Angola is winless in its last seven games in the Africa Cup of Nations, its longest drought since January 1996 — January 2006 in its first eight encounters in the tournament.
- Six of Mali's last eight games in the AFCON have ended with the scores level.
- Mali has kept a clean sheet only once in its last 13 AFCON games.

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