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Gambia and Mali in top of the table clash at AFCON’s Group F

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It is a big football irony that in a group where Tunisia, one of the powerhouses of African football are domiciled, The Gambia and Mali are the teams struggling to top the table.

The situation arose as favourites and seeded side, Tunisia lost their opening match to Mali while The Gambia who are debutants got the better part of Mauritania  in their very first Africa Cup of Nations match last week, winning 1-0.

Today’s duel is The Gambia’s second Africa Cup of Nations match. After two identical 1-0 victories in the opening match day, Gambia and Mali enter the second round of Group F matches with high hopes of another win that could see them paving the way towards the next round in style.

Both Group F teams meet at the Limbe Stadium to decide which side, at least momentarily, takes the top spot. Time: 14:00 local time (13:00 GMT)

For The Gambia, it could be a continuation of a fairytale as they are still celebrating an opening win in their AFCON debut. Ablie Jallow strike gave the Scorpions a 1-0 win over Mauritania to start their first Africa Cup of Nations appearance on high skies.

Another positive result today will mean that Tom Saintfiet men are on their way not just for a historic debut but also for a fairytale second round appearance.

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Their Belgian coach, Tom Saintfiet who handled Namibia against Nigeria in the race for Brazil 2014 World Cup is optimistic of a good result.

 “We had a party to celebrate the country’s first victory. Now we are going to prepare the match against a big Malian team. We have 3 points, it’s already fantastic, but we have to continue. We will do everything to advance to the second round, and to give more light and promotion to The Gambia, the smallest country in Africa.”

So also is Gambia player, Omar Colley highly expectant. “Proud to be in this group, I play in Italy, but this is something else, it is indescribable to live what we are living. With the offensive armada that we have, we will seek points against Mali and Tunisia to bring joy to the Gambian people. Our goal is to win, match by match.”

Mali Eagles defeated Tunisia 1-0 in what was one of the opening match day surprises. Mohamed Magassouba men secured a famous victory over Carthage Eagles to boast their hopes of a historic  AFCON campaign this year.

Another win over fellow West African side Gambia might see The Eagles through, but they have to beware the Scorpions’ sting this time.

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Hear the coach’s timely warning: “We have started a construction phase and we are preparing for the future. Collective value is important to me, we aim to shine tomorrow against this ambitious Gambian.”, remarked Mali’s coach, Mohamed Magassouba.

Continuing, he remarked: “This generation can write its story, a happy story, I hope. Mali is on the quest for the supreme title. We are responsible for producing the show and winning, the rest does not concern us.”

His player, Diadie Samassekou a midfielder added his voice: The morale of the team is at its highest, it’s very important to win your first game. we give everything with an irreproachable state of mind. We don’t play according to the opponent; we have a game philosophy. Our only objective is to do everything to win, our people deserve a consecration.”

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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