Africa Cup of Nations – Uganda v Mali Preview (25/1/17)

Mali preview

The Eagles haven’t actually played badly in this tournament so far. They were the better team against Egypt and then battered Ghana in the second half. However, the end result is just one point from those two fixtures and they’ve yet to register a goal. It’s now highly unlikely they’ll qualify for the quarter finals because the other group game will probably end a draw. All Mali can do is at least win to force the pressure on Egypt. They deserve a victory out of this campaign and will be pleased to move away from the Port- Gentil pitch. Mali are a really strong physical team who seem to get better as each match goes on. Their stamina isn’t to be underestimated and especially as the match is played at 1,000 feet high then this could be a key factor in the second half.

Uganda preview

The Cranes have competed reasonably well but ultimately fallen short in both group games. The late goal conceded against Egypt has given them no hope of qualifying and all they have left to play for is pride. Uganda are a prideful nation though and certainly won't lie down. There is no way they’ll want to be the only side in the competition who end up with no group points. This is a team that look pretty toothless in attack and goalscoring isn’t a strength. Maybe with the pressure off a bit they could be better in the final third but I wouldn't bank on it. Coach Milutin Sredojevic is reported to be considering his options after this tournament and is strongly linked to the Ghana job which will be free following Avram Grant’s upcoming resignation. Uganda will fight hard until the end but I wonder if this might be a physical test too far for them.

Conclusion & betting analysis

I think both teams will be pleased to leave behind the shocker of a pitch at Port-Gentil. This surface in the city of Oyem isn’t that much better, but at least some form of technical football can be played on it. This will probably suit Mali and the likes of Bakary Sako & Sambou Yatabare can get into the game more. I like Mali to win this one. I just think they are the better outfit and have been really unlucky to only pick up one point so far. They have to win to stand any chance of qualification, and although it's unlikely to be enough they can't do any more apart from collect three points. Mali are a strong physical team and I expect them to dominate the last 30 mins especially. The match is played at a slight altitude, close to 1,000 metres and the fitter side will have an edge. That has to be Mali in my opinion. We’ve seen all the other smaller teams desperately struggle in this round, each losing by a two goal margin. Uganda will probably suffer the same fate. I’m going to back Mali on a -0.75 handicap. At worst, I think they’ll win the game outright, but I think there’s a decent chance of a 2-0 or 3-0 win here. I wouldn’t be surprised if the game ended over 2.5 but with Uganda perhaps struggling to contribute in this department I’ll leave that market alone.

Prediction: Uganda 0-2 Mali

Recommended bet 1 unit: Mali -0.75 @ 2.02 (minimum odds acceptable 1.85)