Uganda v Mali: A lot at stake for Mali in shot-shy showdown

Mali head coach Alan Giresse needs his side to belatedly find its scoring touch against Uganda if it is to capitalise on its slim hopes of progressing from Africa Cup of Nations Group D.

Moussa MaregaYacouba Sylla-Cropped

Mali is without a win in seven group stage matches in the AFCON and has only managed to record one clean sheet in that time.

Mali head coach Alan Giresse needs his side to belatedly find its scoring touch against Uganda if it is to capitalise on its slim hopes of progressing from Africa Cup of Nations Group D.

Giresse's men have a solitary point to its name having drawn 0-0 with Egypt before going down 1-0 to Ghana — a result that guaranteed the Black Stars its place in the quarterfinals.

"The players are disappointed, but we are not completely knocked out," the former France great told reporters. “They will be ready to raise their heads for the last game.”

To join them, Mali must beat already eliminated Uganda at Stade d'Oyem and hope Ghana do not take its foot off the gas against Egypt.

Even in that scenario the battle for second place would come down to goal difference or, in the event of Mali and Ghana both recording 1-0 wins, lots being drawn by Egypt and Mali.

The prospect of that outcome would bring about an unwelcome sense of deja vu for Mali, who was eliminated in the same manner at the 2015 tournament, with Guinea the beneficiaries on that occasion.

Uganda cruelly fell short against Egypt in its previous game, as Abdallah El Said netted a minute from time – and will look to end the tournament on a high in a match that brings together two the only sides at AFCON 2017 without a goal to its name.

Milutin Sredojevic is keen for that to change this time and takes plenty of pride in his side's efforts in Gabon.

"I want to thank my players who gave their best and made their people proud," said Uganda's Serbian coach. "We came here to play three finals, we lost to Ghana by a penalty, lost to Egypt in the last minute and our ambition is to win against Mali and return home with pride."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Uganda – Denis Onyango

Cranes goalkeeper Onyango enjoyed a stellar 2016, crowned CAF Player of the Year – Based in Africa after starring for Mamelodi Sundowns as it won the CAF Chanpions League and South African Premier Division titles. But this match could mark his international farewell. “I am thinking about retiring from international football," the 31-year-old told SuperSport. "I am yet to make up my mind fully but it is something that is on my mind.”

Mali – Mamoutou N'Diaye

Royal Antwerp midfielder N'Diaye might only have 12 Mali caps to name but the 26-year old has proved an assured presence in the holding role for Giresse's side. His pass completion rate of 93 per cent was better than any midfielder in the tournament who made more than 50 passes in the opening two group games.

KEY OPTA STATS

-This is Uganda's sixth AFCON participation. Its best performance came in 1978 when it was beaten finalists against Ghana.
- Meanwhile, this is Mali's 10th AFCON participation. Its best performance dates back to 1972, when it lost 3-2 in the final against Congo.
- Mali has faced Uganda twice before and has never lost to them (W1, D1). The sides drew 2-2 last year and there was a 5-1 victory for Mali in 1965.
- Mali is without a win in seven group stage matches in the AFCON (D5, L2) and has only managed to record one clean sheet in that time.
- Uganda come into this match having failed to score in three successive AFCON matches - its longest such run in the competition, losing all three games in that time.