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Mali vs South Africa – Preview, Predictions and Best Bets

Mali faces South Africa in the African Cup of Nations on Tuesday in Group E.

Mali v South Africa

Mali faces South Africa in the African Cup of Nations on Tuesday in Group E. The nations have previously met twice in the showpiece tournament with the West Africans prevailing on both occasions.

Mali Form         

Les Aigles qualified for the AFCON by topping their qualification group. They won five of their six matches. After losing 1-0 away to Gambia, they won 2-0 in Congo and beat South Sudan 4-0 at home in their final two qualifiers.

After winning two friendlies in the October FIFA break, Eric Chelle’s team began World Cup 2026 qualifying by beating Chad 3-1 at home. A 1-1 home draw with Central African Republic followed as a 1-0 lead was surrendered. In a pre-tournament friendly, they beat Guinea-Bissau 6-2 in Bamako.

Mali Team News

Eric Chelle’s squad for the tournament is below full strength. Wolves midfielder Boubacar Traore has been called up for the first time as has Lorient striker Sirine Doucoure. A key man in Crystal Palace’s Cheick Doucoure is ruled out with a serious injury.

Also missing are Atalanta striker El Bilal Toure and winger Moussa Djenepo. Everton’s Abdoulaye Doucouré played in two matches some 18 months ago but has made himself unavailable for this tournament. Yves Bissouma has excelled for Tottenham this season and will be the key man.

Mali Motivation

They will play to win this opening match and give themselves some breathing room in a tricky group.

Mali have been quite free-scoring of late and they have plenty of mobility in attack.

South Africa Form

Form is very mixed for Bafana Bafana. They reached this tournament by finishing behind Morocco in a three-team group. A 2-1 win in Liberia in March 2023 sealed qualification before beating Morocco 2-1 at home in a dead rubber. Their last 19 matches have seen two just defeats.

Since AFCON qualifying, Hugo Broos’ side has played in the COSAFA Cup and in four friendlies, including a 1-1 draw in Ivory Coast. After beating Benin 2-1 to start World Cup 2026 qualifying, they lost in an abject display, 2-0 away to Rwanda. Last Wednesday, they played out a very poor 0-0 draw with Lesotho in a pre-tournament friendly.

South Africa Team News

Coach Hugo Broos was unable to call up foreign-based strikers Lebo Mothiba and Lyle Foster due to injury and mental health reasons respectively. It means he will have to choose between two relatively unproven forwards in Zakhele Lepasa and Evidence Makgopa.

Mothobi Mvala is a doubt in defence with a groin problem and that would weaken a fragile area even more. Themba Zwane and Ronwen Williams will shake off knocks to start. Sphephelo Sithole is set to play as a defensive midfielder, an area where the coach has only selected three options.

South Africa Motivation

Bafana would probably be pretty happy to start with a draw. They may look at their group and think they can beat Namibia in the second match.

The side tries to play out from the back and to press but the style of play is unconvincing. The first goal will be key in this match.

Key Stats

Mali have beaten South Africa in their last 2 AFCON meetings

Mali have scored 3+ goals in 4 of their last 6 matches

South Africa have lost just 2 of their last 19 matches (all competitions)

South Africa have failed to score in 5 of their last 8 matches

South Africa have scored 1 or fewer goals in their last 9 AFCON matches


There is no doubt that the West Africans are favourites for this match. A tight affair is expected and it’s not clear where South Africa’s goals will come from without Foster and Mothiba.

Best Bet: Mali win at 1.90

Alternate Bet: Mali clean sheet at 2.05

Value Bet: Mali win to zero at 2.85

James is a football analyst who writes about the tactics of the PSL and English Premier League. He holds the UEFA A coaching licence and has previously worked for several clubs in analysis roles.Twitter:

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