African Cup of Nations: Mali Shows Great Mental Strength to Progress
Ghana's win over Niger in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations ensured that Mali needed only a point to progress from its group. Emotionally, this made matters much more difficult.
Ghana was in control throughout its match, and the crowd in Durban watching Mali take on Congo knew that Ghana would wrap up that game sooner rather than later. Mali was a step closer to qualification because of that ongoing match.
Congo knew it needed a win to progress. They came out of the blocks much faster than Mali did. Mali seemed overwhelmed by the bright start of DR Congo. Yves Diba, the Congolese forward, was tripped inside the box by Malian midfield Momo Sissoko, and a penalty was awarded to Congo. Dieumerci Mbokani stepped up to the spot and converted. He hit it into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Mali gradually regained its focus. Momo Sisokko fired a warning shot just before Mali drew level. Adama Tamboura set up Mamadou Samassa for an easy finish from six yards. This was exactly what a troubled Mali nation needed at this time.
Eventually, Mali started to control possession. The intelligent and brilliant Seydou Keita set up his teammates with many delicious through balls. However, Mali was unable to turn possession into goals.
Congo midfielder and current West Brom midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu fouled the Malian in an attempt to stop him from influencing the game. He picked up a yellow card. Keita himself earned a booking later as he tackled the midfielder, partly out of frustration.
Mali went into the second half at 1-1, in pole position to advance to the next round.
Claude LeRoy bought on Tresor Mputu Mabi in the second half to aid his side's attack. The move partly helped. However, Mali managed to hold on, almost winning the game at the end. Kalilou Traore hit the post, as did Cheik Diabate. Keita's effort meanwhile was saved.
Finally, as a result, Mali went through with Ghana while Congo head out.
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