Qualification history
Mali did not try their hand at FIFA World Cup™ qualifying until the 2002 edition, despite having long since put themselves on the map with a runners-up spot at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1972. Largely unsuccessful in the decades since then, Les Aigles (the Eagles) will be keen to find the right formula to propel them onto the global stage. 

The team
Ever dependable, captain Seydou Keita still burns with a fierce ambition to serve his country, despite having amassed over 100 caps. The iconic midfielder would love nothing more than to lead the team into action at Russia 2018 as possibly the last act of his career, and he will be helped in that mission by an array of talented team-mates. Mali are especially strong up front, with the likes of Bakary Sako, Mustapha Yatabare and Modibo Maiga all available for duty, and anything could be possible providing they tighten up at the back and find greater consistency.

The coach
Alain Giresse clearly left a good impression during his time in charge between 2010 and 2012 as he was reappointed for a second stint as Mali coach in March 2015, having spent time at the Senegal helm in between.

The stat
8 – The number of French coaches to have held the Mali reins since Christian Sarramagna took over in 1998.

The former stars
Salif Keita, Frederic Kanoute