2022 World Cup playoffs Preview: Mali vs. Tunisia

Sona Balakhchyan
Mali will fancy their chances of playing at the FIFA World Cup for the first time later this year to overcome their opponents in the qualification playoffs.

The Malian Eagles were paired against North African giants Tunisia during the draw last month in the Cameroonian city of Douala. The West African side proved too strong for Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda, having finished as toppers with an undefeated run in the group stages.

Despite having all their home games played in Morocco, Mali recorded five wins from the group games and drew in the other without conceding a single goal. The Eagles couldn’t live up to expectations at the AFCON in Cameroon. This was because they were tipped by many to go farther than the round of 16. The latter was before crashing out by Equatorial Guinea on penalty shootouts.

Booking a place in November’s World Cup tournament could be celebrated more than a semi-final spot of the AFCON since Mali has never been to the Mundial. The Malian Football Federation has trusted Mohamed Magassouba to guide the Eagles for the World Cup place despite the disappointing AFCON display. Magassouba and his men are returning to Mali for this crucial tie with the first leg in Bamako after several months of playing home matches in other countries.

Tunisia will be appeasing its disappointing 2021 AFCON by grabbing one of the five African spots at the Mundial in Qatar this November. The Carthage Eagles were eliminated at the quarter-finals of the AFCON in Cameroon, losing narrowly to Burkina Faso.

Tunisia is one of Africa’s most appeared countries in the history of the World Cup and would want to make it again consecutive times from 2018 after missing out in 2010 and 2014. The unconvincing showing in Cameroon has seen the sacking of head coach Mondher Kebaier and has been replaced with Jalel Kadri for the playoffs against Mali.

Kadri was on Tunisia’s technical bench when the team lost to Mali at the 2021 AFCON group stages, with Wahbi Khazri missing a penalty in the game.
Tunisia is yet to record a win against Mali in competitive meetings. The previous three confrontations had the Carthage Eagles losing twice and drawing in the other.

The first two-legged tie will occur at the Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako on Thursday, March 24, 2022, as the kick-off is scheduled at 19:00 GMT.

The second leg will take place three days later at the Stade Olympique Hammadi Agrebi in Radès also at 19:00 GMT.

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