Preview: Mali vs Ghana – prediction, team news and lineups

will look to continue their impressive run of form when they face Ghana in gameweek three of the CAF World Cup Qualifiers at Stade 26 Mars on Thursday night.

After the first two matches in Group I, the hosts are currently on four points and in second place, while the visitors are just one point behind them and in fourth spot.

Match preview

Mali's Lassine Sinayoko celebrates scoring their second goal with Falaye Sacko on January 16, 2024© Reuters

Mali have been one of the most improved sides in Africa over the last two years and have been tipped to win this group, which will grant them entry to the World Cup for the first time in their history.

The Eagles delivered an impressive performance at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, where they topped their group with five points, which included a victory over South Africa and holding Tunisia to a 1-1 draw, allowing them to advance from the group stage.

Eric Chelle’s side then knocked Burkina Faso out of the tournament in the round of 16 and took the lead against Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals before the hosts managed to equalize and eventually win in extra time.

Having comfortably beat Chad and drawing against Central African Republic in their first two World Cup qualifiers, that defeat to the Ivory Coast stands as Mali’s only loss since March 2023, while they are unbeaten on home soil since March 2022.

While Ghana have a marginal advantage in the head-to-head standings against this opponent, the Eagles have won their last two home matches against the Black Stars, scoring three goals in each game.

Thomas Partey in action for Ghana in October 2023© Reuters

Meanwhile, Ghana were long regarded as one of the best teams in Africa, but they have been plagued by inconsistent performances in recent years, which are perfectly exemplified by their dismal 2021 and 2023 Africa Cup of Nations campaigns.

During the tournament in the Ivory Coast earlier this year, the Black Stars failed to qualify to the knockout stages, finishing third in their group, losing 2-1 to Cape Verde, followed by draws with Egypt and Mozambique.

Following the tournament, the Ghanaian Football Association axed former Norwich City boss Chris Hughton and replaced him with Otto Addo who led the side to Qatar a year earlier.

However, the returning boss has yet to win his first game in his second stint, having lost 2-1 to Nigeria, while only managing a 2-2 draw against Uganda during the international friendlies in March.

Those results extended Ghana’s current winless run in all competitions to seven games while they have not won an away match in their last 11, dating back to September 2022, when they overcame Nicaragua.

Ghana's Andre Ayew celebrate after Mohammed Salisu scores their first goal on November 28, 2022© Reuters

Mali are set to be without their captain Hamari Traoure, who is still serving the four-match suspension he received during the Africa Cup of Nations after he was found guilty of unsporting conduct towards the match official.the AFCON due to an injury.

Mali possible starting lineup:
Diarra; Sacko, Kouyate, Sagnan; Guindo, Coulibaly, Samassekou, Haidara, Doumbia; Toure, Sinayoko

Ghana possible starting lineup:
Ati-Zigi; Lamptey, Djiku, Salisu, Mensah; Owusu, Partey, Issahaku, Kudus, J Ayew; Semenyo

We say: Mali 2-1 Ghana

Mali have made major strides forward in recent years and are now up to 44th in the world, according to FIFA Rankings, which is higher than the likes of Norway and Greece, and just one behind African powerhouse Algeria.

There is genuine belief among Eagles’ fans that this tournament will lead them to their first-ever World Cup appearance, and we feel they will continue their upward trajectory with a victory against the Black Stars on Thursday.

Source: SportsMole

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