AFCON 2023 Qualifiers: Algeria, Mali kick off with vital victories
Algeria started off their campaign to qualify for the 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations with an important 2-0 win at home against Uganda.
Algeria head coach Djamel Belmadi came into the match with a much changed team from the one that played in the qualifiers for the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup, but they had to contend with a tactically organized Ugandan side.
Algeria were dangerous from the onset but struggled to break the Ugandan defense in the opening exchanges.
They were finally rewarded for their strong start in the 28th minute through Aissa Mandi who followed up a rebound after the Ugandan keeper saved a freekick from Youcef Belaïli.
Uganda were given a way back into the match when they were awarded a penalty just before halftime when Rachid Ghazal’s dangerous tackle put down a Ugandan striker.
However, Faruk Miya missed from the spot after goalkeeper Mustapha Zeghba went the right way to keep out the effort.
In the second half, the Algerians continued to play a high line of attack but were unable to add a second with Uganda defending well.
Les Fennecs had to wait until the 80th minute to put the game to safety with a second goal.
The impressive Belaili, dribbled past three players and struck a shot that left no chance for the Ugandan goalkeeper.
Mali cruise past Congo
Mali cruised to an emphatic 4-0 victory over Congo in their opening 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers at the Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako on Saturday.
France-based striker El Bilal Toure grabbed a brace to steer his country to the impressive showing during the Group G match in the capital city.
The Eagles completed the rout of the Red Devils in the first half as they thumped them to surpass Gambia standings in Group G.
The West African hit the ground running with midfielder Mohammed Camara opening the scoring before two strikes by El Bilal Toure and the final goal by Kalifa Coulibaly sealed the win.
Mali new coach Eric Sekou Chelle preferred Sweden based goalkeeper Ismael Diawara to operate between the sticks in only his second international appearance.
Young left-back Amadou Dante was handed his first ever senior debut whilst captain Hamari Traore returned to the team after missing the World Cup playoff in March due to suspension.
The Malien Eagles hit the ground running right after kick-off after getting the opening goal in the 1st minute through midfielder Mohammed Camara with a powerful drive.
Toure doubled the advantage for the home side ten minutes later after being set up by Yves Bissouma before adding another one in the 40th minute with a fine strike.
Kalifa Coulibaly got his name on the scoresheet after heading home a cross from midfielder Yves Bissouma to make it 4-0 before the break.
Congo couldn’t break down Mali’s defence in the second half despite their improved performance as they failed to register a single shot on target throughout the match.