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AFCON 2023 - Pathé Diallo: "We must believe in Mali's chances"

AFCON 2023 - Pathé Diallo: "We must believe in Mali's chances"

Pathé Diallo, former coach of the Aigles du Mali, is adamant that Eric Chelle's team have enough quality to do well at the Africa Cup of Nations in Côte d'Ivoire. But he also points out the difficulty of Group E, which includes Tunisia, South Africa and Namibia.

Many observers see Mali as capable of staging a fine Africa Cup of Nations. Is that your opinion too?

First of all, I think it's important to stress the quality of Mali's opponents. First of all, Tunisia, one of Africa's top teams, who are still there and who, in my opinion, are title contenders. They're an experienced, technical team with a track record and some very good players, and we'll have to reckon with them. South Africa will be a formidable opponent, with a lively, fast and fairly technical game. I don't know much about Namibia, but I think they're likely to play a similar game to the South Africans. Let's get through the first round first.

Are you an optimist?

Of course I'm optimistic. I'm reasonably optimistic. Mali also have their arguments. They've got good individuals, a midfield that's undoubtedly one of the best at this AFCON - the midfield has always been one of the Eagles' strong points - and a good defense. I think Mali can do well at AFCON. We have to believe in it.

"Mali can score more goals, but from there to winning the AFCON, is it a step too far?

There are stronger teams than Mali. Côte d'Ivoire, who will be playing at home, Senegal, who are the defending champions, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria... I mentioned Tunisia as a contender for the title, and we can also add Nigeria and Cameroon. Mali is more of an outsider, I think, and we shouldn't put too much pressure on ourselves by saying that the Eagles can win the AFCON. We can have a great tournament.But be careful, because I think this AFCON will be the toughest in history. All the best African teams will be there.


What are the Eagles' strengths and weaknesses?

Athletically, they have great qualities. They're also a team that doesn't concede too many goals, and they're technically sound, which is why they have this midfield. We have some good players, some of them experienced. But offensively, I think they can do better and score more goals. There's a lot of expectation surrounding this selection, and Eric Chelle was criticized after the draw in Bamako against the Central African Republic (1-1), last November, after the victory against Chad (3-1).Some people say he hasn't yet found the right playing system, and he's been questioned about some of his choices. People are demanding. We have to believe in our team, but also be fully aware of the very high standard of this Ivorian expedition.

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