Port Elizabeth, South Africa: Mali hope to consolidate their leadership of Group B on Thursday when they face Ghana, who coach Patrice Carteron described as the “Germany” of Africa.
Mali are top of the table courtesy of a 1-0 win over Niger last Sunday while Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo have a point each after a thrilling 2-2 draw.
Carteron said Ghana are an ever-present at the Nations Cup and have a strong mentality, just like former World Cup and European champions Germany.
“Ghana are the ‘Germany’ of Africa. They are always up there at the Nations Cup and, above all, they have a very good mentality, just like the Germans,” remarked the former Lyon and Saint-Etienne defender.
“We will, therefore, have to be prepared for a battle against such a team, but our win over Niger has boosted confidence.”
Last year, the teams clashed twice at the Nations Cup in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Ghana won the group game in Franceville 2-0 with second-half goals from Asamoah Gyan and Andre Ayew, but Mali avenged this defeat by beating the Black Stars by the same scoreline to clinch third place in Malabo.
Last Sunday, Mali struggled to break down a tight defence mounted by the Mena (Gazelles) of Niger and needed a scrambled effort by skipper Seydou Keita to carry the day.
They have been boosted with the return of West Ham forward Modibo Maiga, who missed the Niger match because of a thigh injury.
Maiga will return to combine with giant Bordeaux striker Cheick Tidiane Diabate, who looked isolated up front for long periods against Niger.
Ghana are one of the tournament favourites, but need to get a result against Mali to keep alive hopes of a fifth title.
Skipper Gyan said they will go into this west African derby with a winning mentality.
“We have to have a winning mentality because the more you win, the more you qualify,” said Gyan, who saw the Black Stars surrender a two-goal lead against the Congolese.
“Ghanaians should have confidence in this team because we will ensure we go past the group stage, to begin with.”
A likely change in the Ghana starting line-up will see more experienced centre-back Isaac Vorsah coming in for Turkey-based Jerry Akaminko, who gave away a penalty against the Congolese.