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Mali Eagles set to fly over Ghana’s Black Stars

The Eagles from Bamako were held to a 1-1 draw in Sudan in March, and a win over a Ghanaian team weakened by several withdrawals…

The Eagles from Bamako were held to a 1-1 draw in Sudan in March, and a win over a Ghanaian team weakened by several withdrawals would certainly get their campaign back on track.

Ghana struggled to beat Benin 1-0 in Kumasi in March, but Mali coach, Stephen Keshi, has insisted that he is not fooled by this performance and his team will have to work hard to stop the five-time African champions.

“It is being rumoured that they played below their capacity, yet they are top the table,” said the Nigeria-born coach.

“Let everyone else be fooled by the performance of the Black Stars but count me out, I won’t fall for this.

“I know the quality of the Ghanaian side and I will not allow a single performance to distort the reality about their strength.”

In April, Keshi had a chance to look more closely at the players in the domestic league when they engaged their Guinean counterparts in a friendly.

Group leaders Ghana go into their match in Bamako with a long list of players who will not be available no thanks to injuries – Sulley Muntari (Inter Milan), Asamoah Gyan (Rennes), Laryea Kingston (Hibernians), Stephen Appiah (no club) and Derek Boateng (FC Cologne).

There are also very much aware that the conditions could be very difficult in this poor, land-locked country, meaning they have to be at their very best to avoid a defeat.

That explains why they prepared for this encounter in the northern Ghanaian town of Tamale, which shares similar arid weather conditions with next-door Mali.

A 2-1 victory over Uganda in a warm-up game would also have done a world of good to the confidence of the Black Stars, who were not at their best against visiting Benin two months ago.

Centre-forward Junior Agogo, who was overlooked for the Benin match as a result of his troubles at Egyptian club Zamalek, has been recalled and has a tough job playing as a lone striker against a team, who are known to play out of their skin at home.

Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien was a major doubt for this match, but he has since gone through with his court hearing over a compensation claim brought against him by a former lover.

He will therefore be involved in today’s match and said he is looking forward to a battle against Mali’s Seydou Keita (Barcelona) and Momo Sissoko (Juventus).

“They have some of the best midfielders in the world so it will be a special battle and I am looking forward to it,” he said.

“Hopefully we should come out well because I believe we have the men to do well.”

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