MaliNAMIBIA

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The final standings in Group E at the Africa Cup of Nations will be decided this week, and Mali will look to secure the top spot when they face Namibia at Stade Laurent Pokou on Wednesday evening.

As the only undefeated team in the group after the first two matches, Mali lead Group E with four points, while Namibia are still well in contention for a spot in the last 16, currently level with second-placed South Africa on three points.

Regardless of the outcome of this match, Namibia will look back at this tournament with fond memories when all is said and done, as it has been a historic one for The Brave Warriors.

Under the guidance of Collin Benjamin, Namibia pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the competition on matchday one when they claimed a historic first victory against the heavily fancied Tunisians.

However, they were unable to follow up on that performance on Sunday evening when they took on neighbours South Africa and after going behind to a Percy Tau penalty in the first half, they slumped to a 4-0 defeat.

Nevertheless, that matchday one victory marked not only their first win against The Carthage Eagles but also their first-ever win at an Africa Cup of Nations, and they will now look to achieve another first by making it to the knockout phase.

The highly anticipated AFCON showdown between Mali and Tunisia, who were considered the top contenders in Group E, largely lived up to the hype as the teams went toe-to-toe in an intense 1-1 draw on Saturday.

Lassine Sinayoko opened the scoring for The Eagles with an exquisite left-footed strike from a delightful assist by Kamory Doumbia in the 10th minute, but they only held the lead for 10 minutes until The Carthage Eagles levelled proceedings.

That result followed an excellent tournament opener against South Africa, where they were let off the hook when Tau missed a penalty while the scores were still level at 0-0, and went on to make the most of their good fortune by claiming a 2-0 victory.

In their last eight AFCON tournaments, The Eagles have been sent packing from group stages on four occasions, while in the last two tournaments, they were eliminated in the Round of 16.

However, based on their performances this year, Eric Chelle’s side needs just a draw or better here and will be full of confidence in getting the result they need, having beaten this opponent in four of their six encounters while only losing once.

Peter Shalulile seems to have fully shaken off the injury that threatened his participation in this competition, and the Mamelodi Sundowns attacker will almost certainly lead the line for The Brave Warriors on Wednesday evening.

Absalom Iimbondi and Petrus Shitembi were both withdrawn at halftime against South Africa and could start this one on the bench, with Bethuel Muzeu and Ngero Katua possibly replacing them in the first 11.

With no new injury concerns to report, Chelle is likely to deploy a similar starting lineup to one that held Tunisia to a 1-1 draw with Sinayoko and Sekou Koita leading the line in a 4-3-1-2 formation.

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Yves Bissouma dropped to the bench for that match but is likely to return to the starting 11 here and will provide coverage for the central defensive pairing of Boubakar Kouyate and Braga’s Sikou Niakate.

Mali
Mali have been one of the surprise packages in this competition and look destined for the last 16 after two very positive performances to date. Namibia were humbled last time out but showed enough, even in defeat, to suggest that they are not out of this competition just yet. We feel this could be a nail-biter and fancy that there will be nothing to split these sides at the final whistle