Tunisia have extensive experience at the World Cup but their playoff clash with Mali this week to decide which side picks one of Africa’s five tickets at the global tournament is unpredictable.
That is because Mali are witnessing an upsurge in form in recent times that has made them one of the feared sides in Africa thanks to some exciting players plying their trade with top clubs in the world.
Tunisia has the experience of the World Cup with five appearances after playing in the tournaments of 1978, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2018.
Their two-legged clash with Mali will start on Friday with a trip to the March 26 Stadium in Bamako before the return led match in Rades on Tuesday.
Unlike Tunisia, Mali had no opportunity to represent Africa in the global tournament and sees this match as the chance to make history to make their first appearance.
Meetings between the two teams:
1972 Olympic Games qualifiers: Mali-Tunisia: 2-0, Tunisia-Mali: 4-0
AFCON 1994: Tunisia-Mali: 0-2
AFCON 2019: Mali-Tunisia: 1-1
AFCON 2021: Mali-Tunisia: 1-0
Mali: Falaye Sacko (Saint-Etienne, France), El Bilal Touré (Reims) and Adama Traoré ”Noss” (Hatayspor)
Tunisia: Wahbi Kahzri (Saint-Etienne, France) and Dylan Bronn (Metz, France)
Players to watch: Youssef Msakni (Tunisia), Ibrahim Koné (Mali).
Venue: Bamako March 26 Stadium: Out of 50,000 seats, 47,000 tickets were put on sale
What they said
Jalel Kadri, Tunisia coach: “The wing attackers are Mali’s assets and you have to know how to stop them. For our part, we will play to our strengths, while maintaining our usual style. 180 minutes separate us from a sixth qualification to a final phase of the World Cup. The fact that we lost against Mali in the African Cup of Nations means nothing. The context is different. We have a good capital of confidence that we draw from our experience in the World Cup. Participating five times in the final phase of the world game is not nothing. Moreover, we have a Tunisian football heritage to defend. My collaborators, my players and I are more determined than ever to defend this heritage.
Hamari Traoré, captain of Mali: “There will be only one watchword, qualification for the World Cup in Qatar and that requires a big victory on Friday. It will not be easy against Tunisia, a great team. We have to win the first leg here at home and be able to play the return leg to the opponents well. Even if we beat Tunisia at the AFCON, these Cup play-offs are different. All the teams want to go to the World Cup and we must be able to count on everyone and first and foremost on the public also to get this historical qualification.”
Frederick Marfo is a sportswriter and social worker well known for his advocacy for equal chances and rights for all athletes, especially those with disabilities.