Tue. Jun 25th, 2024
World Cup Qualifiers: Ghana Aims to End Winless Streak Against Resurgent Mali

Amidst a turbulent start to their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying journey, Coach Otto Addo and the Black Stars brace themselves for a crucial showdown against Mali at the Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako today, June 6, in search of victory and redemption.

Presently occupying the fourth spot in Group I with three points, the Black Stars are determined to shake off the sting of a disheartening 0-1 defeat to Comoros in their second qualifier last November, under the helm of Irish coach Chris Hughton.

With only the group winners securing automatic qualification to the Mundial in USA, Canada and Mexico, the Ghanaian squad recognises the pivotal nature of this upcoming clash to steer their campaign back on course.

Otto Addo has made World Cup qualification a top priority, calling up the finest talents available for the upcoming encounters against Mali today and against Central African Republic next Monday, aiming to reignite their qualification pursuit.

Despite historical statistics favouring Ghana, with 11 victories out of their 24 previous encounters with Mali, along with seven draws and six losses, prevailing in Bamako presents a formidable challenge for the youthful squad, particularly in the absence of seasoned players such as Skipper, Andre Ayew, and Daniel Amartey.

Contrasting fortunes

The Eagles of Mali, who crashed out of the 2023 AFCON in the Round of 16, exude a sense of resurgence, bolstered by a stable core predominantly comprising France-based talents.

Coach Éric Sékou Chelle’s side currently rides on an impressive streak this year, marked by two wins, two draws, and a solitary loss in competitive fixtures, underscoring their potency as epitomised by a resounding 2-0 triumph over Nigeria in a high-profile international friendly held in Marrakech, Morocco, on March 26.

Contrastingly, the Black Stars embark on a journey of resurgence following a lacklustre AFCON campaign, enduring a seven-match winless streak across competitive contests and friendly matches alike.

Despite Otto Addo’s recent appointment for a second stint, the players remain aware of the high stakes, acutely conscious of the scant margin for error in the World Cup qualification campaign.

Black Stars centre-back, Mohammed Salisu, acknowledged the formidable challenge posed by Mali; yet exudes optimism in Ghana’s talented young squad.

“We know it’s not going to be easy. Mali has a strong team, but with hard work, we can prevail,” Salisu stated.

He emphasised the importance of the match and called upon the nation to rally behind the youthful team.

“This game is very important for every Ghanaian. It is a World Cup qualifier, and we know how important it is. We have good young players, and Ghanaians need to believe in them.”

Past encounters

The last encounter between the two sides saw Mali running away with a 3-0 victory in a friendly in Turkey four years ago. Key players from that match, including Lawrence Ati-Zigi, Jordan Ayew, Alexander Djiku and Thomas Partey, are part of Otto Addo’s squad who are expected to get a good result in today’s encounter.

Mali, who sit in second place behind Comoros on the group log with four points from two matches, will aim to maintain their unbeaten run on home soil to strengthen their bid for a maiden World Cup appearance.

Coach Chelle has put together a formidable team, featuring stars such as Amadou Haidara of RB Leipzig, Mohamed Camara of AS Monaco, and Aliou Dieng of Al Ahly. The return of Sekou Koita after recovering from injuries further boosts their lineup.

However, they will be without Tottenham Hotspurís’ Yves Bissouma, who is sidelined due to injury.

Ghana too have talent in abundance and the coach will expect midfielder Thomas Partey’s leadership to provide inspiration for poster boy, Mohammed Kudus, and other talented players like Abdul Fatawu Issahaku, Antoine Semenyo, Ernest Nuamah and veteran, Jordan Ayew, to secure a vital triumph and rekindle Ghana’s World Cup aspirations.

Source: Graphic online

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